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M.   L.  Irtlhite 





North  Carolina  State  Library 


m  Z\)c  %itc 
©f  Hmos  ©wens, 
^be  floteb  Blochaber, 
®f  Cbetr^  ilDountain,  fl.  C. 

Clevjelaijsu  ."SrAR  .»oB  Print, 

»Y.  N"j  cr4    •• 




In  offering  this  work  to  a  reading  and  borrow- 

g  public,  the  Author  does  not  deem  it  necessary 
0  make  an  apology. 

The  characters  are  not  creations  of  fancy,    for 

mos  Owens  at  Cherry  Mountain  and  Jerry  Bjw- 
lin  at  his  mountain  home  are  much  in  evidence. 
Partly  at  the  aged,  infirm  but  still  alive  block- 
ader,  this  work  was  undertaken,  and  partly  at  our 
own  inclination. 

He  did  not  feel  adequate  to  the  task,  and  was 
handicapped  by  many  difficulties.  The  hera  of 
Cherry  Mountain,  baing  unlettered,  has  kept  no 
records,  and  hence  has  to  depend  on  a  treacherous 
memory  that  is  incident  to  over  eighty  years  in 
the  making  of  history. 

We  cherished  no  fond  hope  of  setting  the  river 
on  fire,  and  should  such  a  conflagration  occur,  no 
one  would  be  greater  surprised  than  the  Authar. 

Neither  has  it  been  the  aim,  as  J.  Proctor  Knott 
of  Kentucky  would  say,  '  'to  strain  the  blankets  of 
veracity, "  but  these  characters  are  given  as  found 
during  a  sojourn  of  eighteen  years  near  the  scenes 
of  their  operations;  while  the  incidents  are  partly 
obtained  from  old  and  reliable  resident  witnesses. 

This  work  was  not  intended  as  a  stricture  or  a 
series  of  strictures  on  the  revenue  service,  nor  as 
an  apology  for  the  maker  of  contraband  whiskey. 

Neither  is  it  expected  to  adorn  the  Sunday 
School  library,  for  the  hero  did  not  die  young  and 
a  picture  would  here  be  out  of  place  of  a  funeral 
scene  with  a  youthful  figure  the  central  figure  in 
the  repose  of  death  surrounded  by  weeping  friends 
and  relatives. 

Nor  yet  is  it  expected  that  it  be  recommended 
in  a  course  of  theology,  nor  that  the  absent-mind- 
ed philosopher    will    draw    inspiration    from    its 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 


The  effort  to  glorify  .crime  has  been  avoided, 
and  nothing  here  is  given  to  cause  the  youthful 
reader  to  desire  a  life  of  crime. 

Nay,  verily;  but  through  all  these  pages  runs 
the  solemn  warning:  "The  way  of  the  transgressor 
is  hard,"  and  the  effort  has  been  made  to  preserve 
a  chaste  and  simple  style. 

Instead  of  a  bewildering  array  of  dates  and  an 
intricate  plot  the  effort  has  been  made  to  remain 
near  the  soil,  which  is  the  place  if  one  ever  expects 
to  get  an  enduring  hold  on  the  public. 

With  the  passing  of  Amos  Owens,  the  present 
condition  of  affairs  and  the  mandates  of  sdciaty 
will  soon  relegate  the  blockader  to  the  past— tlier  a 
a  dim  and  fading  monument  of  .  a  semi-barbar  )ii< 
age^  ;    "  \ 

The  press  and  pulpit  hurl  their  denuliciations  at 
this  unholy  traffic,  and  the  stately  stepping  of  eii- 
cation  brought  about  by  modest,  humble  but  n  ^^13  ^ 
the  less  powerful  school  master  who  isnowabr  :ad 
and  here  to  stay,  will  beat  back  many  of  the 
hordes  of  intemperance  and  other  powerful  agen- 
cies of  darkness. 

In  the  modest  hope  that  no  one  will  be  worse  by 
the  perusal,  but  that  all  may  be  enter tainel  if  ml 
edified,  and  that  our  next  bow  will  be  hailed  with 
rapture,  we  trust  this  infant  industry  to  the  ten- 
der mercies  of  a  fun  loving  public. 


M.  L.  WHITE. 
Polkville,  N-  C,  Cleveland  Co.,  Aug.  22,  1901. 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

Caption  of  Chapters. 


Youth,  of  a  famous  maker  of  contraband  whis- 
key. Parentage,  and  early  school  days.  His  ex- 
perience at  musters  and  record  as  a  hunter,  horse- 
man and  fighter. 


He  begins  his  career  as  a  distiller,  and  later, 
bays  "Cherry  Mountain"— now  celebrated  in  song 
and  story.  His  marriage  briefly  noted.  Mention 
ol  Jesse  R.  DePriest,  a  quaint  character  of  this 
mountain.     Amos  becomes  a  fine  farmer. 

He  enlists  as  a  Southern  volunteer.  Is  a  sharp 
shooter  at  Petersburg.  Is  at  the  "blow  up."  His 
experience  with  dropsy.  Prison  life,  and  his  to- 
ba.c3  deal.  Has  typhoid  fever  coming  home. 
Health  restored  by  working  hard  all  night  at  a 
distillery.  - 


Resists  the  revenue  tax.  '  'Bread  the  staff  of  life 
and  whiskey  life  itself,"  saith  he,  backed  by  the 
sentiment  of  his  neighl3ors.  The  "red-legged  grass 
hopper"  becomes  a  burden.  The  revenue  officers 
given  this  sobriquet  by  ex-Governor  and  then  Sen- 
ator Vance.  The  famous  black-heart  cherry  re- 
gion. Part  of  '  'The  Switzerland  of  America. " 
Cherry  bounce  invented. 


His  first  trial  for  selling  '  'blockade, "  or  moon- 
shine whiskey.  "Beats  the  bond"  by  masquerad- 
ing, and  sells  forty  gallons  at  the  trial.  Is  a  cap- 
italist in  disguise,  and  is  the  pride  andenvy  of  his 

A  HiSTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

less  frond  companions. 


Again  is  brought  to  trial.  Sketch  of  "Rev." 
Geo.  Deck,  of  color,  who  alternately  preaches  and 
operates  a  wild  cat  distillery.  Passing  notice  of 
"Cooney"  Hunnicutt,  a  martyr  of  the  whipping 
post.  Except  a  predeliction  to  lie,  cheat  and  steal; 
Honeycutt  is  an  honest  man.  Col.  Whangdoodle 
Tessiner,  also  a  witness.  His  absent-mindedness, 
Amos  comes  clear,  and  again  sells  forty  gallons. 


Rise  of  "Invisible  Empire,"  or  "Ku  Klux 
Klan."  Troubles  of  "Reconstruction."  Negroes 
and  their  leaders  cause  a  clash.  '  'The  U  nion 
Leagues. "  The  grotesque  disguises  and  the  terror 
of  the  superstitious  negroes.     Amos  is  a  leader. 

Dectruction  of  James  Justice's  printing  plant 
and  whipping  of  Aaron  Biggerstaff .  Martial  law 
prevails,  and  Amos  Owens  and  others  arrested. 
Devotion  of  our  hero.  Randolph  Shotwell,  Adol- 
phus  DePriest,  Plato  Durham  and  others.  The 
above  named  are  sentenced  to  a  term  of  six  years 
at  Sing  Sing,  Albany,  New  York,  and  all  placed 
in  durance  vile,  except  Plato  Durham.  While 
awaiting  trial,  Amos  sells  whiskey  at  Rutherford- 
ton  and  Marion,  N.  C.  Plato  Durham  gets  Amos 
pardoned  at  end  of  two  years,  and  fine  of  |5,500 


Is  a  free  man  once  more,  but  finds  that  the  red- 
legged  grass-hopper  has  again  devoured  his  sub- 
stance. Goes  gunning;  and  lands  in  jail.  Meets 
'  'Aunt  Polly  Price, "  a  Rutherford  youngster  of  99 
who  has  kept  his  bureau — rescuing  the  same  from 
the  festive  grasshopper. 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 


Is  haled  before  Judge  Dick  at  Asheville.  The 
dignified  reprimand  of  •  'his  honor, "  and  Amos 
quotes  the  language  of  the  governor  of  North 
Carolina  to  the  governor  of  South  Carolina.  Again 
sent  to  Sing  Sing.  '  'Kill  the  fatted  prodigal,  for 
the  calf  has  got  back. "  "One  year  for  rest  and 
refreshments. "  '  'The  place  sought  the  man  and 
not  the  man  the  place. " 


Improves  his  resort,  or  '  'earth, "  two  stills  de- 
stroyed, Che.ry  Mountain  is  the  Mecca  of  conviv- 
ial spirits,  and  they  come  from  everywhere.  The 
varied  festivities,  dancing,  flying  jennies,  the 
prize  ring.  The  pious  young  man  from  Gastonia 
slays  a  man  with  an  iron  stirrup. 


The  '  'gander-pulling"  the  dog  and  chicken  fights, 
and  deeds  of  mortal  combat.  Burt  Franklin — an 
ancient  warrior,  and  a  mighty  "gander  puller"  in 
the  earth.  Wanted  to  enlist  in  '98  to  '  'Remember 
the  Maine." 


The  duel  between  two  colored  Lotharios,  '  'All 
on  account  of  Eliza, "  Jack  Badniss,  colored,  the 
victor,  J.  Dudley  Bomar  "never  came  back."  The 
victor  captures  the  one-eypd  widow  of  47,  and  her 
$40.  Is  now  living  in  splendor  on  Cherry  Moun- 


Is  Amos  Owens  black  as  painted?  He  continues 
to  I  still  and  sell  brandy,  whiskey  and  bounce,  in 
spite  of  Uncle  Sam  and  the  '  'locusts. "  He  is 
caught  in  South    Carolina    and    imprisoned    one 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

year.  Heroic  defense  of  Sheriff  Glenn  from  the 
assault  of  three  negroes.  Become  the  Joseph^  of 
the  prison.  The  bees  swarm  and  Amos  hives 
them.  They  fight  "like  the  colored  troops" — no- 
bly, but  the  old  blockader  captures  them  and 
sings;  "God  Save  the  Queen." 


He  improves  Cherry  Mountain — resolves  to 
build  a  tower  or  observatory  in  interest  of  service. 
Was  arrested,  and  the  project  failed. 


Again  is  captured,  and  is  tried  before  Judge 
Dick,  sent  again  to  Sing  Sing  w^here  his  reception 
is  characteristic.  Amos  claims  he  is  there  to  take 
a  "post-graduate  course." 


Another  blockader  comes  on  the  stage — a  bold 
bad  man  who  shoots  to  kill.  Terrorizes  North  and 
South  Carolina.  A  marshall  and  blockader  by 
turns.  Is  outlawed  and  traced  to  his  lair.  Des- 
perate fight  with  captors,  in  which  he  is  seriously 
shot  and  wounded.    Recovers  and  is  exiled  by  court. 


Another  doing  blockader  Avho  has  reformed  and 
has  symptoms  of  engaging  in  ministry.  After  a 
desperate  fight  with  his  brother-in-law  leaves  the 
territory.  Author,  wh!le  not  a  lawyer,  defends 
him  at  a  Cherry  Mountain  temple  of  justice.  All 
wept  but  the  client,  the  "law^-er,"  and  the  mutes 
thereof.  Lives  an  exemplary  life  now,  and  would 
preach,  but  can't  read. 


The  last  trial  of    Amos    Owens.     By    kindness 

A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

and  an  exhortation,  Judge  Dick  wins  a  promise  of 
reform.  Tearful,  and  later,  a  jubilant  scene  in 
the  court  room.     '  'Go  your  way  and  sin  no  more. " 


Mineral  wealth,  forestry,  and  grand  and  en- 
chanting view  of  "The  Land  of  the  Sky"  from 
Cherry  Mountain.  Gold,  silver,  lead,  mica  and 
manazite  found  here.  What  is,  "Taxation  with 
out  representation?" 


Yv^ork  written  by  a  man  who  never  saw  inside  a 
moonshine  distillery.  The  work  is  attested  by 
good  and  living  witnesses.  Xo  drawing  on  imag- 
inations for  buccaneers,  pirates  or  bandits.  Xo 
incarcerated  maidens  who  are  sought  out  by  spi- 
der, legged  dudes  who  wear  tin  shields  and  carry 
dark  lanterns  and  swamp  angel  pistols. 


Xo  romance  worth  mentioning,  is  on  record  as 
to  his  courtship  and  marriage.  The  old  man 
worming  and  suckering  tobacco  and  the  girl  peel- 
ing walnuts.  Married  by  a  justice  who  took  a 
quart  and  a  coonskin.  "Took  an  observation, " 
over  the  bottle.  Went  to  a  house  three  stories 
long  and  one  story  high.  Both  still  there.  Squat- 
ter Sovereignty.  Jerry  Bowlin  as  hard  to  dislodge 
as  Amos  is  to  stop  from  stilling.  The  Syndicate, 
backed  by  the  majority  of  the  law,  tries  to  dis- 
lodge him.  The  house  comes  down,  but  Phoenix- 
like, it  rises  again.  Jerry  testifies  on  Sunday  oc- 
casions, that  lightning  in  the  north  is  a  '  'shore" 
sign  of  rain.  Given  over  to  his  devices,  he  still 
digs,  sand,  peels  tan  bark,  hunts  squirrels  and  has 
frequent  "shindigs." 







A  History  of  the  Life 

— »?WSm-.— 

The  saying  lias  become  trite,  that  truth  is 
stranger  than  fiction. 

Tlie  reahns  of  the  latter  abound  in  scenes  of 
blood  and  thunder,  where  pirates,  Indians,  coun- 
terfeiters, cow-boys  and  others  are  the  central  fig- 
ures, but  another  class  exists  in  the  mountain  reg- 
ions of  Kentucky,  Tennesee,  North  Carolina,  Vir- 
ginia and  Georgia,  that  a  true  recital  of  their  ad- 
ventures, made  of  life,  together  with  their  fierce 
conflicts  with  the  minions  of  the  law  known  as 
deputy  marshals,  would  be  more  thrilling  than 
any  recital  of  deeds  of  daring  or  shrewd  cunning 
that  adorn  the  realms  of  romance. 

While  these  latter  day  Ishmaelites  are  not  al- 
ways depraved  by  nature,  their  peculiar  calling 
forces  them  to  often  become  outlaws,  and  some  of 
them,  outside  of  a  deep-seated  hatred  of  the  '  'rev- 
enuers,"  as  they  are  called  in  the  vernacular  of  the 
moonshiner,  and  a  deep-seated  defiance  of  the 
"Grovernment"  are  good  neighbors,  and  in  all  oth- 
er respects',  honest  men,  the  noblest  work  of  God. 

In  their  isolated  environments,  they  can  raise 
little  but  corn,  and  being  remote  from  railroads 
or  commercial  centres,  the  bread  and  butter  prob- 
lem requires  that  they  make  all  they  can  of  this 

Most  of  them  are  illiterate,  and,  therefore  un- 
progressive.  ,  The  "mixed  team"  of  a  mule  and  ox, 

10  A  HisTOBY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

yea,  sometimes  the  male  and  milk  cow,  the  tar- 
axle  wagon,  with  the  obsolete  pattern  of  plow  that 
flourished  in  the  days  of  Andrew  Jackson,  are 
their  equipment  to  wrest  a  living  from  the  bosom 
of  mother  earth. 

While  corn  is  worth  from  twenty  five  to  fifty  cts. 
per  bushel,  and  perhaps  a  two  days  drive  from 
their  homes  to  a  town  where  their  quaint  costumes 
and  grotesque  teams  provoke  derision,  and  where, 
after  trying  the  market  thef  are  told  they  will 
have  to  '  'take  in  trade"  something  they  do  not 
want,  they  resolve  to  convert  the  same  into  whis- 
key— a  commodity  that  the  depraved  appetites  of 
mankind  makes  a  "legal  tender. "  They,  like  all 
other  ignorant  people,  live  in  the  '  'good  old  days" 
when  whiskey  was  untaxed. 

For  their  infraction  of  the  revenue  laws  they 
have  been  hunted  like  wild  beasts  and  ferocious 
bandits,  and  the  fierce  sanguinary  encounters  be- 
tween them  and  the  ofl3.cers  of  the  government, 
when  fairly  written,  would  be  a  series  of  thrill- 
ing recitals.  While  '  'Redmond,  the  Outlaw, "  a 
noted  moonshiner  of  this  State,  has  been  the  hero 
of  romance,  and  has  contributed  to  recent  history 
as  an  avenger  of  blood  for  the  "blockaders"  or 
makers  of  contraband  whiskey  as  called  in  this 
state ;  a  greater  than  Redmond  is  here.  While  the 
deeds  of  Redmond  and  his  henchmen  rivalled  the 
reign  of  terror  in  Robeson,  Richmond  and  Cum- 
berland counties  of  North  Carolina  which  were 
perpetrated  by  Henry  Berry  and  Steve  Lowery, 
Croaton  bandits  descended  from  John  White's 
last  colony;  the  remarkable  adventures  of  Amos 
Owens,  who  is  now  enthroned  on  Cherry  Moun- 
tain, causes  all  the  deeds  of  the  other  moonshin- 
ing  ilk  to  pale  into  insignificance.  This  remark- 
able man  was  born  over  eighty  years  since  on 
Sandy  Run,  in  Rutherford  County,  North  Caro- 
lina.    His  father  was  a  ne'er  do  well,  and    would 

A  History  of  'Amos  Owens'  Life.  11 

fill  the  literary  character  of  the  present  known  as 
the  "cheerful  idiot. "  The  grandfather  of  Amos 
was  also  a  native  Tar-heel,  and  was  a  patriot  in 
the  Revolution. 

He  was  at  King's  Mountain  where  the  dashing 
and  intrepid  Col.  Ferguson  made  the  ranting 
boast  that  "God  Aimighey  could  not  dislodge 
him. "  But  the  deadly  marksmen  of  the  McDow- 
ell contingent,  among  whom  was  the  Amos  Owens 
for  whom  the  subject  of  this  sketch '  was  named, 
with  their  deadly  hair  triggered  rifles  hurled  the 
minions  of  King  Greorge  from  this  eminence  cele- 
brated in  song  and  story.  Ferguson  was  slain,  and 
in  five  miles  of  the  present  castle  of  Amos  Owens, 
about  twenty  tories  were  hung,  and  the  site  of  the 
famous  "gallows  oak"  is  still  pointed  out  to  the 

Except  a  rugged  well  knit  frame,  a  constitution 
like  boarding-house  butter,  digestion  like  the 
bowels  of  a  threshing  machine,  there  was  nothing 
specially  unbearable  about  the  youth  of  Amos 
Owens.  He  was  strong,  active,  an  unerring  shot, 
and,  while  peaceable,  would  fight  desperately 
when  aroused. 

Grood  markmanship,  and  athletic  sports  were 
common  with  all  young  men  and  boys  of  that  pe- 
riod, and  all  grievances  were  adjusted  by  fistic 
encounters.  Amos  is  unlettered,  having  never 
attended  school  but  a  few  days.  His  instructor 
was  a  queer  Irishman  known  as  "Old  man 
O'Neil. "  The  principal  educational  helps  used  in 
this  temple  of  knowledge  were  harness  tugs  and 
barrel  staves,  and  the  play  time  diversions  were 
bull-pen  and  dog-fighting.  Amos  at  this  age 
showed  aversion  to  restraint,  and  a  few  applica- 
tions of  the  harness  tug  caused  him  to  "side-track" 
on  the  road  to  learning. 

At  nine  years  of  age  he  was  hired  out,  and  was 
a  '  'hewer  of  wood  and  a  dra war  of  water"  till    he 

12  A  HisTOKY  OF  Amos  Q wens'  Life. 

.at t(ained  the  age  of  twenty  three.  •-    .,  r 

:  Among  his  neighbors  were  some  wealthy  gentle- 
man, who  had  a  great  passion  for  .deer'  hiintng 
and  fox-chasing.  These  men  were  respectively: 
Dr.  James  Cabaniss^  John  Lattimore,  Joe;  Latti- 
more,  D.  B.  Lattimore;  William  Elliott  and  Col. 
A.  J.  Elliott. 

Except  P.  D.  Lattimore, -aged  82,  and  the  hero 
,  of  this  story,  all  have  passed  over  the  river — J.  C. 
Lattimore  dying  two  years  since  at  the  age  of  84. 
Amos  was  a  fine  rider,  with  the  woodcraft  and 
hunting  instinct  of  the  red  man  of  the  forest,  and 
was,  therefore,  a  welcome  acquisition  to  any  hunt- 
ing party.  He,  also,  became  a  noted  breaker  of 
horses,  and  as  such  was  in  great  demand. 

Nothing  eventful  occur ed  during  this  period 
except  his  marriage  to  a  Miss  Sweezy,  a  near 
neighbor,  who  still  lives,  aged  82.  He  took  great 
delight  in  attending  the  military  "musters"  of 
this  region,  which  did  more  to  keep  up  the  martial 
spirit  in  actual  pugilistic  encounters,  than  to  de- 
velop a  knowledge  of  military  tactics.  Men  for 
real  or  fancied  grievances  stripped  to,  the  waist 
and  fought  in  a  ring,  sometimes  as  high  as  twen- 
ty such  encounters  taking  place  in  one  day  at  a 
muster.  In  these  encounters  Amos  Avas  a  frequent 
participant,  and  was  never  known  to  strike  his 
colors.  At  the  shooting  matches  he  became  so  ex- 
pert, -that  he  was  ruled  out  of  matches  for  beef. 
The  only  condition  on  which  he  was  allowed  to 
compete,  was  to  shoot  for  the  "lead"  which  he  al- 
most invariably  won. 


In  1845  he  bought  100  acres  of  land  from  Thom- 
as Calton  near  Cherry  Mountain.  He  planted  a 
crop,  but  this  was  a  season  of  universal  drought. 
All  old  people  speak  of  the  "dry  year  of  45." 

In  '46  he  began  his  career,  as  a    distiller,    little 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life.  13 

dreaming  this  career  was  to  make  liim  famous. 
He  had  no  tax  to  pay,  and  being  a  good  distiller, 
he  made  money.  Six  years  later,  he  bought  the 
historic  Cherry  Mountain,  or  rather  100  acres  from 
Jesse  R.  DePriest. 

The  latter  was  a  celebrity,  who  figured  as  a 
famous  fighter,  and  was  never  downed  in  telling 
of  a  more  remarkable  experience  than  any  other 
man  he  ever  met,  be  he  a  stranger  or  home-talent. 
As  a  stage  driver,  a  fighter,  or  a  ladies  man,  he 
had  the  call  over  anything  quick  or  dead  he  ever 
met  or  read  about. 

Later,  Amos  bought  140  acres  from  William 
DePriest,  the  father  of  the  celebrated  Jesse.  No- 
body wondered  at  the  DePriests'  for  selling  this 
property,  but  all  marvelled  at  Amos  for  making 
the  purchase.  Jesse  DePriest  used  to  relate  that 
every  crow  that  flew  over  Cherry  Mountain  had  a 
canteen  of  water  and  a  haversack  of  rations 
strapped  to  his  person. 

But  Amos  caused  the  desert  to  blossom  as  the 

He  made  fine  corn  and  oats,  and  his  yield  of 
wheat  was  about  150  bushels  every  season.  Neith- 
er was  he  unmindful  of  the  mountain  '  'legal  ten- 
der." He  kept  his  still  ranning,  and  his  coffers 
bulged  ^4th  filthy  lucre. 

When  the  war  of  '61  opened,  he  cast  his  fortunes 
with  the  South,  and  enlisted  as  a  volunteer  in 
the  company  made  up  by  Capt.  H.  D.  Lee,  after- 
wards promoted  to  major.  His  regiment  was  the 
16th  N.  C,  and  he  was  in  the  Valley  Mountain 
region  of  Virginia  and  also  at  Manassas.  At 
Wolf  Run,  after  serving  twelve  months,  was  dis- 
charged, the  army  surgeons  saying  he  had  an 
incurable  case  of  dropsey.  He  was  sent  home,  and 
his  neighbors  thinking  dropsey  was  "ketching," 
shunned  him  as  they  would  the  roving  pestilence. 

He   stayed  at  home  twelve  months  and  entirely 

14  A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

recovered.  His  martial  spirit  chafed  at  inaction, 
and  he  paid  his  own  transportation  to  Salisbury, 
N.  C,  where  he  enrolled  in  the  56th  N.  C.  regi- 
ment, in  company  under  Capt.  J.  B.  Harrill.  He 
wae  detailed  to  hunt  deserters,  and  to  this  line  of 
service  was  admirably  adapted. 

Later,  he  was  in  the  seige  of  Petersburg  as  a 
sharp-shooter.  It  is  related  that  he  always  fired 
after  a  careful  aim,  and  as  he  took  his  smoking 
rifle  from  his  face,  would  say:  "And  may  the 
Lord  have  mercy  on  the  soul  of  that  blue-coat." 

At  the  celebrated  '  'blow  up"  a  South  Carolina 
regiment  was  over  the  mine,  and  they  were  an- 
nihilated by  the  explosion.  The  regiment  of 
Amos  was  near,  and  when  the  smoke  lifted  from 
the  "crater,"  a  division  of  colored  troops  were 
pushed  into  the  yawning  chasm  by  the  federals. 
This  was  the  most  terrible  scene  of  carnage  af- 
forded by  that  bloody  war.  The  Southern  troops 
fired  one  volley,  and  gave  them  the  bayonet.  Ev- 
ery negro  in  this  charge  perished,  and  Amos  was 
a  participant  in  the  sanguinary  scene.  He  says 
no  more  revolting  sight  was  ever  witnessed  in 
this  lost  and  ruined  world. 

As  a  soldier  Amos  was  brave  and  remarkably 
vigilant.  He  seemed  to  love  battle  for  battles 
sake,  and  although  "a  high  private  in  the  rear 
rank,"  frequently  cursed  his  comrades  for  shoot- 
ing up  in  the  trees  when  the  Yankees  were  just  as 
close  to  the  ground  as  they  could  git." 

He  was  captured  at  Dinwiddle,  and  carried  as 
a  i)risoner  to  Point  Lookout.  Here  he  suffered 
the  ()rivations  incident  to  prison  life,  but  with  his 
characteristic  buoyancy  of  spirits,  resolved  te 
make  the  best  of  the  situation. 

He  tried  to  laugh  and  grow  fat,  but  learned 
that  all  laughter  and  no  food  would  not  add  to 
his  corporacity.  Always  a  shrewd  trader  he  con- 
sidered one  dollar  in  the  hand,  when  a   man    was 

A  HiSTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life.  15 

starving,  worth  five  in  tlie  bush  at  his  Cherry 
Mountain  home.  He  found  a  money  changer  in 
the  temple,  who  was  a  shining  light  of  philan-' 
thropy.  This  gentleman,  touched  by  the  round 
unvarnished  tale  of  woe,  which  Amos  did  unfold, 
generously  tendered  Amos  one  dollar  in  "green 
back"  in  consideration  of  a  note  bearing  legal  in- 
terest for  five  dollars  in  gold.  With  this  dollar, 
Amos  made  a  deal  with  the  shylock  who  posed 
as  Sutler,  and  got  all  the  plug  tobacco  purchas- 
able for  one  hundred  cents.  This  he  cut  into 
"chaws"  and  did  not  make  them  too  large.  He 
then'  became  a  retailer  of  a  concoction  made  of 
fodder,  cabbage  and  lamp  black,  but  veneered 
with  tobacco. 

Amos,  among  his  other  accomplishments  had 
never  cultivated  the  habit  of  using  the  weed.  For 
one  "chaw"  he  exacted  a  "tin"  of  soup  and  if 
some  rash  speculator  wanted  two  "chaws"  he 
parted  company  with  a  rasher  of  bacon.  Amos 
said  on  one  side  it  was  liberality  and  starvation, 
while  on  the  other  was  extorsion  and  high  living. 
He  chose  the  latter,  and  in  the  experience  and  ob- 
servation of  this  corn-fed  philosopher  who  how 
holds  the  pen,  such  a  man  as  Amos  who  sell 
chews  of  tabacco  at  ten  prices  are  wiser  in  their 
generation  than  the  children  of  light  who  open 
the  brand  of  Liberality. 

In  three  months  he  was  paroled,  and  an  arrival 
at  terminus  of  railroad,  60  miles  from  home,  was 
stricken  With  typhoid  fever.  Here  he  was,  out  of 
money,  out  of  tobacco,  and  among  strangers.  But 
ever  fertile  in  resources,  he  got  home,  and  for 
twenty-eight  days  the  watchers  sat  in  vigil  at  his 
bedside,  and  Dr.  Phillip  Carson,  a  fine  physici  an 
said:  "He  is  bound  to  die."  But  his  grim  will- 
power fought  back  the  enemy,  and  in  three 
months  an  amaciated  skeleton  with  little  left  of 
Am)s  Owens,  but  his  fierce    black  eyes  and  mar- 

16  A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

tial  spirit  said  he  was  going  to  his  brandy  distil- 
lery. Dr.  Carson  was  present  and  expostul- 
ated. He  declared  if  Amos  rode  that  horse  to  the 
distillery  all  the  doctors  in  the  State  could  not 
keep  him  out  of  perdition. 

The  reply  of  Amos  was  characteristic.  He  said; 
'  'Doctor  you  say  if  I  go  I'll  be  damned,  and  I  say 
if  I  don't  go  I'll  b3  damned."  By  that  time  a 
horse  was  brought  around,  that  nobody  but 
Amos  dared  ride  at  any  time. 

The  audacious  patient  mounted  him  and  rode  to 
the  distillery,  and  then  worked  hard  all  night. 
From  that  time  his  recovery  was  rapid,  and  he 
was  soon  the  picture  of  rugged  health. 


By  this  time  a  heavy  tax  was  inposed  on  all 
whisky  and  brandy,  but  Amos  registered  a  blood 
red  oath  that  this  tax  heVl  never  pay. 

He  reverently  believed  that  while  bread  was 
the  staff  of  life  whiskey  was  life  itself.  That  it 
was  the  chief  end  of  man  to  raise  enough  corn  to 
make  whiskey,  and  convert  the  remainder  into 
bread.  He  had  fought  the  government,  been  im- 
prisoned by  the  government,  been  starved  by  the 
government,  and  he  didn't  propose  to  divide  pro- 
fits of  his  whiskey  business  with  the  government. 

The  still  was  his,  the  corn  was  his,  the  land 
was  his,  and  the  raiders  of  Kirk  and  Holden  had 
looted  his  property.  Besides,  the  government  had 
freed  the  only  negro  he  had,  and  he'd  see  them 
al~>out  getting  tax. 

Truth  to  tell,  nearly  all  the  people  in  the  south 
were  in  sympathy  with  such  men  as  Amos.  While 
many  of  them  were  opposed  on  general  principles 
to  the  manufacture  and  sale  of  whiskey,  the 
esi)ionage  of  the  federal  revenue  officers  was 

Amos  owned  Cherry  Mountain  which  was  3000 

(slorm  Carolina  :>TaTe  Liorary 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life.  17 

feet  above  the  level  of  the  sea.  From  here  was  a 
most  enchanting  view  of  the  mountain  scenery 
that  is  called  the  '  'Switzerland  of  America, "  and 
from  here  could  be  seen  Shelby,  Rutherfordton, 
King's  Mountain,  with  a  view  of  the  mountains  of 
Georgia,  Virginia  and  Tennessee.  Here  could  be 
breathed  the  pure  air  of  heaven,  and  here  as  pure 
limpid  water  as  ever  gurgled  from  the  bosom  of 
mother  earth  rippled  down  the  delves  of  the 
mountains.  Here  grew  the  famous  cherry  trees, 
some  three  feet  in  diameter,  and  are  found  no- 
where else;  that  yielded  every  June  a  crop  of 
fruit  remarkable  for  its  size  and  flavor.  Here  was 
found  the  ideal  honey  producing  flavors  of  poplar, 
chestnut  and  sourwood,  and  here  was  the  ideal 
range  for  the  cattle  of  a  thousand  hills.  The 
home  of  the  cow,  the  honey-bee,  pure  water  and 
invigorating  mountain  air,  and  not  excelled  on 
earth  for  the  fruit  tree  and  the  vine.  Amos  said 
here  would  he  build  a  castle  like  the  baron  of 
feudal  times,  and  here  should  be  the  land  of  milk 
and  honey,  peach  and  honey,  and  the  abiding 
place  of  cherry  bounce.  No  man  had  ever  before 
tried  to  adorn  and  beautify  Cherry  Mountain, 
nor  had  it  ever  occurred  to  anybody  to  offer  to  a 
convivial  public  this  drink  now  celebrated  in  song 
and  story. 

The  preparation  made  and  warranted  by  Amos 
Owens  is  a  compound  of  44  blue  steel  whiskey, 
honey  and  cherry  juice.  Later  on,  will  deal  more 
minutely  with  cherry  bounce,  but  at  this  period 
Amos  built  a  large  cattle-like  building  and  offer- 
ed to  a  public  this  elixir. 


The  powers  that  be  had  issued  the  fiat  that  all 
whiskey  and  brandy  must  be  tax  paid,  or  there 
would  be  fines,    imprisonment    and    confiscation. 

18  A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

Amos  had  said  lie  would  make  what  whiskey  and 
brandy  he  pleased;  and  tendered  the  government 
the  '^ame  pious  message  issued  by  the  late  lament- 
ed Vanderbilt  to  the  public. 

In  those  days,  the  revenue  officers  were  often 
adventurers  of  the  most  unscrupulous  character. 
The  inimitable  Zeb  Vance,  ex-governor  and  sena- 
tor, of  North  Carolina,  satirically  called  them 
"red-legged  grasshoppers. "  As  Amos  continued 
to  do  business  at  the  old  stand  regardless  of  the 
government  and  the  nuisance  thereof,  two  officers 
came  up  one  day  and  placed  him  under  arrest, 
and  otherwise  harassed  him,  till  the  red-legged 
grass-hopper  became  a  burden.  They  were  satis- 
fied that  he'd  go  if  he  promised,  and  as.  he  made 
no  resistance  they  took  his  recognizance  to  appear 
at  Asheville,  N   C. 

He  loaded  up  a  barrel  of  "blockade"  or  moon- 
shine whiskey,  and  told  one  of  his  henchmen  to 
come  on  three  days  after  to  Asheville.  The  fel- 
low was  shrewd  and  loaded  a  barrel  of  brandy 
into  a  wagon,  and  filled  up  with  sweet  potatoes 
and  chestnuts. 

Amos  went  on  afoot,  and  his  masquerading 
would  have  done  credit  to  '  'Old  Sleuth"  of  dime 
novel  creation.  He  put  on  a  pair  of  slick  copperas 
breeches,  a  hat  that  like  the  "Niobe  of 
nations,"  was  "crownless  and  childless,"  the 
same  having  been  used  as  a  "holder,"  in  smooth- 
ing iron  and  parlance.  For  two  years  it  had  been 
used  to  lift  hot  things  around  the  distillery.  His 
shoes  were  red  stogas  and  his  suspenders  were 
leather.  Above  Rutherfordton  he  overtook  two 
others  who  were  likewise  making  a  pilgrimage  to 
Asheville  on  the  same  errand.  Our  hero  tried  to 
stimulate  the  appearance  of  an  inspired  idiot, 
while  his  companions  tried  to  masquerade  as  high- 
rollers.  They  looked  with  scorn  on  the  vile-look- 
ing walking  delegate,  and  seemed  ashamed  of  his 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life.  19 

company.  When  tliey  arrived,  all  hands  were 
placed  on  trial,  and  Amos  employed  a  lawyer  for 
all  three.  When  the  hat  circulated  the  two 
haughty  high-rollers  had  depleted  exchequers, 
but  Amos  had  a  very  plethoric  roll.  When  the 
dudish  blockaders  saw  this,  they  imagined  him  a 
capitalist  in  disguise,  and  treated  him  with  mark- 
ed consideration.  All  were  acquitted  and  Amos 
went  out  to  sell  his  load  of  "taters"  that  had  just 
arrived.  It  was  soon  evident  that  '  'taters"  were 
in  great  demand,  all  the  bar-rooms,  hotels,  and 
many  private  families,  being  "just  out." 

Amos  went  home  in  his  wagon,  having  sold  20 
bushels  and  40  gallons  of  "taters,"  and  Cherry 
Mountain  was  again  a  place  where  the  still-worm 
dieth  no(;  and  the  fire  is  not  quenched. 


In  a  few  months  he  had  another  visitation  of 
red-legged  grasshoppers.  This  time  he  was  ar- 
raigned before  'Squire  Wilson  of  Rutherfordton. 
The  witnesses  against  him  were  the  Rev.  George 
Deck  of  color,  Cooney  Honeycutt,  and  Col.'. 
Whangdoodle  Tessiner,  known  generally  by  the 
euphonious  cognomen  of  "Rosineer,"  (roasting 

The  Reverend  Deck  was  a  maker  and  retailer 
of  wild  cat  whiskey,  and,  in  his  own  language, 
had  heard  a  very  audible  and  peremptory  call  to 
work  in  "de  Laud's  tanyard."  Like  most  of  his 
race,  he  was  an  artist  on  the  barjoseph;  and  wore 
a  very  ancient  "derby"  and  a  James  Swinger  coat 
of  obselete  pattern.  In  the  spring  and  winter  he 
distilled  whiskey,  and  when  the  sultry  dog  days 
drew  nigh  apace,  he  blossomed  out  as  an  evange- 
list and  called  sinners  to  repentance.  His  .  favor- 
ite text  was:  "It  is  easier  for  a  needle  to  go 
through  the  eye  of  a  camel  than  for  a  rich  man  to 
sae  the  Kingdom  of    Gaud. "    His  hearers    were 

20  A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

invariably  negroes  who  daily  wrestled  with  the 
problem  as  to  how  buckle  and  tongue  could  be 
made  to  meet,  but  he  addressed  them  as  though 
all  were  capitalists,  and  painted  in  lurid  colors 
the  final  woe  of  the  bloated-bond-holder.  He  al- 
ways took  up  a  collection,  and  left  them  as  pen- 
niless as  though  he  was  a  professor  of  "thimble- 

On  one  occasion  he  had  an  appointment  for 
himself  to  preach,  and  a  confederate  to  sell  some 
of  his  wild-cat  whiskey  at  the  same  appointment. 
At  the  evening  service  many  of  his  auditors  came 
in  with  very  suspicious  bottles  of  the  mother- 
hubbard  variety  sticking  out  their  pockets. 

The  Rev.  Deck  looked  at  them  in  solemn 
gravity  and  expatiated  thusly;  "De  gates  of  he- 
ben  am  berry  narer  men  ail'  bredren,  an'  you'll 
do  well  to  squeeze  f rough  your  self;  let  alone  a 
great  bottle  swingin  to  Ye,  Come  right  on  an'  let 
us  offer  dem  as  a  sacrifice  to  the  Laud. "  When 
the  time  came  for  the  night  service,  it  is  related 
that  Bro.  Deck  was  too  drunk  to  brush  a  horse- 
fly from  the  end  of  his  nose. 

Mr.  Honeycutt  was  conversant  with  the  whip- 
ping post,  having  been  there  interviewd  for  let- 
ting a  hog  follow  him  home  and  putting  the  same 
in  a  pork-barrel,  also,  for  looting  his  grandma's 
spee's,  and  for  taking  a  '  'pea-fowl"  fly-brush  at 
Christmas  time.  He,  however,  interpolated  every 
expression  with:  "(rod knows  I'm  an  honest  man," 

Col.  Whangdoodle  Tessineer  was  noted  for  be- 
ing rather  absent-minded.  When  hogs  ran  out  in 
the  range,  nearly  all  owners  had  ear-marks. 
His  ear  mark  was  "two  smoothcrops. "  That 
obliterated  all  other  marks,  and  he  frequently 
practiced  this  in  moments  of  absent-minded- 

Amos  knew  the  layout  and  defended  his  own 
case.     The  roars  of  laughter  he  evoked  caused  the 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life.  21 

whole  thing  to  develop  into  a  roaring  farce,    and 
he  was  acquitted. 

Ever  after  this  episode  Tessiner  has  been  called 
"Shacknorty, "  and  Honeycutt,  "(ji-reasy  Jim." 
Both  have  since  left  these  regions,  and  Deck  is  al- 
ternately preaching  and  stilling. 


We  now  approach  a  time  momentous  in  the  his- 
tory of  North  Carolina,  and  eventful  in  the  career 
of  Amos  Owens.  So  far  he  had  outwitted  the 
red-legged  grasshopper  except  in  two  instances, 
and  his  court  experience  was  bat  amusement. 
When  the  war  closed  and  the  Southern  Slave  be- 
came a  citizen  and  later,  was,  in  the  language  of 
Bill  Nye,  "clothed  with  the  divine  right  of  suf- 
frage," discordant  elements  clashed.  However 
patriotic  may  have  been  the  motives  of  the  federal 
administration,  the  work  of  "re-constraction"  was 
as  the  sowing  of  dragon's  teeth. 

The  leading  white  people  of  the  South  were  in- 
dignant at  seeing  their  former  slaves  their  politi- 
cal equals,  and  a  season  of  rapine,  blood-shed  and 
anarchy  ensued. 

The  negroes,  intoxicated  with  the  boon  of  tree- 
dom,  and  instigated  by  unscrupulous  politicians, 
became  insolent.  While  no  people  in  their  condi- 
tion had  ever  been  so  loyal  to  the  women  and 
children  while  the  men  of  the  South  were  battling 
to  forge  their  fefcters,  a  feeling  of  unrest  and  dis- 
trust had  now  settled  on  both  races.  By  some 
strange  frenzy  or  hallucination,  many  of  the  freed 
slaves  that  were  styled  by  General  Butler,  "con- 
traband of  war,"  were  arrayed  against  the  kind 
old  master  and  his  family,  whom,  during  the 
struggle  '  when  the  negro's  destiny  hung  in  the 
b  0  ce,  they  would  have  died  to  maintain  and 

22  A  HiSTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

C  n  the  side  of  the  administration  were  organ- 
ized Union  Leagues,  and,  with  many  of  the  ne- 
groes, liberty  degenerated  into  license. 

The  southern  soldier  had  accepted  the  fortunes 
of  war  in  the  generous  terms  of  surrender  at  Ap- 
pomattox, and  while  he  went  to  a  desolated  home, 
and  fields  that  grim  war  had  ravaged  he  felt  that 
he  could  again  take  up  the  burden  of  life.  But 
when  he  saw  the  slave  of  yesterday  the  intolerant 
master  of  to-day,  it  was  too  much  for  the  proud 
Cavalier.  JSfo,  doubt,  both  sides  made  mistakes, 
but  certain  it  is  that,  in  retaliation,  was  organ- 
ized the  "Kuklux  Klan, "  The  intention  of  this 
was  to  put  in  subjection  the  negroes,  and  to  hold 
their  unscrupulous  white  leaders  in  abeyance. 

By  subjection  is  not  of  course,  meant  to  again 
impose  the  shackles  of  slavery,  but  to  bridle  their 
domineering  and  lustful  spirit.  The  Kuklux  were 
a  secret  and  oath  bound  organization,  that  rode 
a.bout  at  night  in  grotesque  disguise.  This  struck 
terror  to  the  hearts  of  the  superstitious  negroes, 
for  their  ghostly  array  and  the  phantom  like  tread 
of  their  muffled  horses  made  the  negro  believe 
they  were  the  ghostly  avengers  of  the  south  from 
the  battle-fields  of  the  southern  slain.  While  no 
mob  violence  is  to  be  commended,  their  visitations 
were  said,  at  first,  to  have  a  salutary  effect.  The 
organization  was  at  first  controlled  by  men  of 
coolness  and  discretion,  who  would  tolerate  no  ex- 
cesses. But  a  lawless  and  vicious  element  crept 
in,  who  had  personal  scores  to  settle 

Many  offenders  were  whipped,  some  banished, 
and  others  even  slain.  Early  in  the  action,  Amos 
Owens  became  a  member,  and  his  energy,  persis- 
tence and  courage,  made  him  a  leading  spirit. 

In  the  first  place  he  had  no  love  for  a  govern- 
ment that  would  allow  a  red-legged  grass-hopper 
prey  upon  him,  and  in  the  next  he  didn't  like  to 
see  "Cuffey"  in  the  saddle.     It  is  said    that  every 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

white  '  'red  string"  that  felt  the  rod  of  the  avenger 
could  see  the  fine  Italian  hand  of  this  muscular 
Kuklux,  and  every  negro  that  felt  the  stinging 
lark  thought  if  it  were  not  some  phantom  cavalier 
from  Gettysburg  it  must  be  Amos. 

At  length  James  Justice,  a  Republican  editor, 
of  Rutherfordton,  was  seized,  treated  with  indig- 
nity and  his  press  and  fixtures  destroyed. 

On  the  same  night,  Aaron  Biggerstaff  a  noted 
and  very  unpopular  "red-string,"  as  the  republi- 
cans were  called,  was  given  a  very  severe  castiga- 
tion.  Soldiers  and  deputy  marshalls  were  sent  to 
the  scene  of  disturbance,  and  soon  the  counties  of 
Cleveland  and  Rutherford  swarmed  with  men 
whose  mission  was  to  uphold  the  majesty  of  the 
law.  On  information  of  Aaron  Biggerstaff  war- 
rants were  sworn  out  against  Amos  as  a  partici- 
pant in  the  whipping  of  himself,  and  as  a  perpe- 
trator in  the  destruction  of  the  printing  office  and 
the  rough  treatment  of  Editor  Justice.  Many  fled 
the  State,  some  turned  State's  evidence,  but  Amos 
Owens,  Plato  Durham,  Randolph  Shotwell,  Adol- 
phus  DePriest,  etc. ,  stood  their  ground  like  stern 
old  Romans. 

Five  soldiers  and  three  marshalls  came  for 
Amos,  and  found  him  making  malt.  He  went  to 
Rutherf  ordton  jail  where  he  was  incarcerated  two 
weeks.  Before  he  had  been  there  three  days  his 
trusty  potato  peddler  was  on  hand,  and  Amos 
was  enabled,  by  the  kindness  of  his  captors,  to 
sell  20  more  bushels  and  40  gallons  of  "taters." 

He  got  a  change  of  venue  to  Marion,  N.  C,  and 
in  two  days  his  bewhiskered  confederate  was  on 
deck  with  more  "taters."  Like  Rutherf  ordton, 
the  market  was  unusually  active  that  day,  and 
with  the  alleged  eagle-eyed  marshalls  at  his  heels, 
he  sold  out  '  '20  bushels  and  40  gallons. " 

He  and  the  others  were  taken  thence  to  the 
capital  City,  Raleigh,  and    there    they    were    ^r- 

24  A  HiSTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

raigned  before  Judge  Baird.  Many  turned  State's 
evidence  here,  or  '  'puked"  as  it  was  called  by  the 
the  ones  who  stood  the  ordeal.  Every  overture 
was  made  to  induce  Amos  Owens,  Randolph  Shot- 
well,  Adolphus  DePriest  and  Plato  Durham  to 
betray  their  comrades,  but  all  such  propositions 
were  met  with  indignant  scorn.  When  the  evi- 
dence was  taken  the  sentence  was,  '  'six  years  in 
Sing  Sing  at  hard  labor,  and  a  fine  of  $5500  each. " 
Adolphus  DePriest  was  turned  out  to  die  before 
his  sentence  expired  and  died  in  a  few  weeks  af- 
ter reaching  home.  Randolph  Shotwell  served 
part  of  his  sentence  and  died  soon  after,  but  is 
venerated  as  a  true  and  great  man,  and  the  mem- 
ory of  Adolphus  DePriest  is  also  venerated.  Plato 
Durham  was  released,  and  threw  his  whole  pow- 
erful influence  into  the  scale  for  his  unfortunate 
comrades.  He  went  to  Washington  City  and  had 
an  interview  with  the  president.  By  his  courage, 
zeal  and  eloquence,  he  caused  the  sphinx-like  hero 
of  Appomattox  to  sign  the  order  for  the  release  of 
Amos  Owens.  . 


At  the  end  of  two  years  Amos  was  again  on 
the  soil  of  Cherry  Mountain,  and  felt  like  Mr. 
Greggoi"  on  his  native  heath.  But  again  had  the 
red-legged  grasshopper  become  a  burden.  In  his 
absence  the  festive  grass-hoppers  had  carried  away 
three  horses,  three  wagons,  several  cows,  his  bu- 
reau, beds,  and  even  his  grindstone.  Three 
strong  petitions  had  been  sent  up  for  his  pardon, 
but  the  "grass-hoppers"  whom  Amos  hated  as 
veritable  locusts  from  the  bottomless  pit,  had  sent 
counter  petitions  which  said,  '  'Nay,  verily,  for  he 
is  a  pestilent  fellow  and  mover  of  sedition."  The 
scene  of  desolation  he  met  at  home  would  hav^ 
crushed  a  spirit  less  bold,  but  Amos  was  cast  in 
heroic  mold.     He  got  his  trusty  gun  and   hunted 

A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life.  25 

his  plunder.  For  this  he  was  placed  in  durance 
vile  in  Rutherford  jail  and  there  languished  un- 
til court,  when  the  judge  ordered  his  release.  One 
incident  worthy  to  relate,  perhaps,  is  the  recov- 
ery of  his  bureau.  It  was  at  "Aunt"  Polly 
Price's.  He  went  for  it  and  she  said  it  was  left 
there  by  '-grass  hopper"  and  that  she  was  glad  to 
restore  it. 

She  being  99  years  of  age,  then  informed  him 
she  would  soon  attain  100  years.  On  that  occa- 
sion, if  Amos  would  send  over  a  few  "taters,"  she 
would  set  a  big  dinner  and  they  would  dance  the 
"highland  fling."  Amos  said  nothing  would 
please  him  better,  but  he  had  promised  shoe  shop 
"No.  1"  at  Sing  Sing  he'd  soon  be  back,  and  he 
never  liked  to  disappoint  them. 

He  saved  what  he  could  out  of  the  wreck  and 
soon  his  bounce  and  other  products  of  his  labra- 
tory  were  on  the  market  and  his  coffers  were  full 
of  filthy  lucre. 


But  a  Nemisis  was  on  his  trail,  and  the  villain 
still  pursued  him.  Like  the  ghost  of  Banquo,  the 
revenue  oflicers  would  not  "avaunt,"  but  like  the 
unbidden  ghost  at  the  feast  the  red-legged  grass- 
hopper was  ever  present.  He  was  sent  to  Sing 
Sing  for  kuklux  outrages  in  1872,  and  in  1876 
while  performing  his  sorrowful  vigil  at  the  bed 
side  of  a  dying  neighbor,  he  felt  the  grasp  of 
personified  law.  He  was  in  the  toils  of  the 
"locusts,"  and  was  the  same  night  remanded  to 
Rutherford  jail.  Later,  he  appeared  for  trial  be- 
fore Judge  Dick,  at  the  revenue  court  of  Asheville, 
N.  C.  Judge  Dick  heard  the  evidence,  and  be- 
fore passing  sentence  said :  '  'Amos  Owens  stand 
up.  Once  before  you  have  trodden  the  winepress 
as  a  Sing  Sing  convict,    and  you  have  stiffened 

26  A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

your  neck  and  liardened  your  heart  again, 
against  the  majesty  of  the  law  you  have  made 
whiskey  and  sold  the  same.  Why  will  you  per- 
sist in  your  lawless  course?  Look  at  me,  I  am 
sixty  years  of  age,  was  never  drunk,  and  have 
never  incurred  the  woe  pronounced  against  him 
that  putteth  tli3  bottle  tohis  neighbor's  lips.  What 
have  you  to  say,  why  the  sentence  of  the  law 
should  not  be  pronounced  upon  you?" 

Amos  cocked  one  eye,  cleared  his  throat  and 
with  mock  solemnity,  said:  "Well,  Judge,  yon 
have  missed  a  durned  lot  of  fun  if  you  haint 
never  made,  drunk  nor  sold  no  licker.  As  to 
what  I  have  to  say  about  being  sentenced — Judge, 
do  you  know  what  the  Governor  of  North  Caro- 
lina said  to  the  Governor  of  South  Carolina? 
"Them's  my  sentiments." 

"One  year  in  Sing  Sing  and  twelve  hundred 
dollars  fine, "  roared  the  irate  Judge.  Amos  was 
promptly  taken  to  this  bastile  of  Uncle  Sam,  and 
it  is  said  the  officials  of  that  institution  of  learn- 
ing had  a  torch-light  procession  in  his  honor: 
Amos  entered  -with  glee  into  the  festivities;  and 
approached  the  gate  between  two  '  'red-legged 
grass-hoppers,"  singing:  "Hold  the  fort  for  t  am 
coming."  The  wardens  said:  "Kill  the  fatted 
prodigal  for  the  calf  lias  got  back." 

All  the  Sing  Sing  contingent  hailed  liis  appear- 
ance with  great  joy. 

The  warden  continued;  "My  unconverted 
friend,  Amos,  though  long  absent,  has  returned 
to  his  first  love.  As  the  ox  knoweth  his  master's 
crib,  so  doth  Amos  come  to  the  high  tower  and 
rock  of  refuge  for  the  transgressor.  Let  the  band 
play:  "Jordan  is  a  hard  road  to  travel. " 

The  superintendent  also  extended  the  follow- 
ing royal  welcome:  "My  unconverted  friend,  this 
is  neither  a  pleasant  nor  disagreeable  surprise. 
In  fact,  it  is  no  surprise  at  all,  for  we  were  expect- 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life.  27 

ing  you,  and  you  are  welcome  to  do  business  at 
the  old  stand.  We  never  shake  an  old  friend  or 
an  honored  acquaintance,  and  our  motto  is  as 
ever:  "While  the  lamp  holds  out  to  burn.  The 
vilest  sinner  may  return."  Bring  hither  the  razor 
and  the  shears,  and  let  us  put  a  new  striped  robe 
on  him.  One  Year,  Amos,  for  rest  and  refresh- 

Amos  rose  to  the  emergency,  gave  the  military 
salute,  and  replied  in  kind:  "Colonel,  this  is  a 
case  of  the  place  seeking  the  man,  and  not  the 
man  seeking  the  place.  Bat  vdieh-  I  dance  I  pay 
the  fiddler,  and  never  shirk  when  the  hat  cOmes 
round.  When  my  country  needed  my  services 
her  call  was  as  the  voice  of  God,  and  I  did  all  in 
my  power  to  beat  back  the  nothern  invader, 

When  the  ruthless  carpet  bagger  preyed  like  a 
cormorant  on  the  substance  of  the  South,  I  joined 
the  Invisible  Empire,  and  whenCuify  commenced 
that  foolishness  about  the  "bottom  rail  being  on 
top,"  I  helped  revive  the  old  song;  "Run!  nigger, 
run!  patroller  catch  you."  When  my  grateful 
constituents  became  so  dry  they  spit  bales  of  cot- 
ton I  tried  with  my  "labratory"  to  fill  a  long-felt 
want  and  fill  it  to  overflowing. 

At  the  end  of  ten  months  he  was  informed  that 
he  could  again  breathe  the  pure  air  of  heaven, 
and  that  other  place — Cherry  Mountain,  if  he'd 
pay  up  a  little  matter  of  $1200  fine  and  $75  cost. 
Amos  solemnly  winked  the  other  eye,  and  confin- 
ed himself  to  the  hammer  and  last.  At  the  end 
of  thirty  days  he  was  discharged.  Bidding  the 
whole  push  a  hasty  good  bye,  he  telegraphed  to 
have  malt  prepared  to  make  a  "run."  Always  a 
shrewd  financier,  he  felt  that  a  matter  of  $1275 
for  30  days  labor  was  a  pretty  fair  dividend  on 
the  original  investment.  The  malt  was  prepared, 
the  people  sounded  aloud  the  great  hew-gag  and 
beat  the  loud  tom-tom.     The   practiced  eyes  of 

2«  A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

Amos  were  fastened  on  the  charcoal  receptacle. 
and  when  the  first  fiery  shots  commenced  '  'bead- 
ing at  the  worm,"  he  made  hill  and  valley  echo 
with  the  glad  refrain:  "Come  thou  fount  of 
every  blessing." 

His  motto  was  still;  "millions  for  defence  but 
not  a  cent  for  revenues. " 


When  the  next  spring  had  spread  her  vernal 
mantle  over  the  earth,  he,  as  ever,  had  a,  generous 
supply  of  copper— distilled,  hand-made,  standard- 
proof  goods,  and  the  bibulous  saw  it  and  were 
glad.  He  had  made  great  improvements  in  his 
summer  resort,  and  at  his  castle  summer  was  to 
last  twelve  months  in  the  year.  While  the  leaves 
of  his  Cherry  trees  were  not  recommended  for 
the  healing  of  the  nations,  his  bounce  had  a 
reputation  rivaling  the  celebrated  "bourbon"  of 
Kentucky.  Cherry  Mountain  was  truly  celebrated 
in  song  and  story.  Twice  had  his  stills  been  <le- 
stroyed,  but  he  reported  as  ever  with  a  flourish  of 
trumpets  and  a  new  out-fit. 

From  every  town  of  size  and  importance  in  the 
Old  North  State  came  votaries  to  do  homage  at 
the  shrine  of  gay  Bacchus,  and  from  the  Lone 
Star  State,  the  Palmetto  State,  from  the  red  hills 
of  Georgia  and  the  f estooned-forests  of  Alabama, 
came  the  festive  cow-boy,  the  unadulterated 
"Goobergrabber, "  the  wild  and  woolly  "Yaller- 
hammer,"  together  with  the  imperious  "Sand-lap- 
per"  and  the  brawny  "man-behind  the  gun," 
from  Old  Kentuck.  In  the  June  revelries,  the 
guests  sportively  pelted  each  other  with  Irish  pota- 
toes at  meal  time,  and  sometimes  plates,  dishes, 
axe  handles,  ox-yokes  and  bed-posts  were  used  to 
convince  the  on-looker  in  Venice  that  Southern 
hospitality  was  not  stinted. 

One  contingent  would  be  dancing  furiously   to 

A  -'iisTORY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life.  29 

the  sound  of  fiddle  and  barjosepli  others  trying 
to  eat  and  the  battle  royal  in  progress  had  caused 
all  the  dis  les  to  he  smashed  over  the  heads  of 
opposing  f  ictions.  Still  another  group  of  merry 
makers  wc  uld  be  engaged  in  pistol  target  prac- 
tice at  eac  i  other,  and  another  squad  up  the  trees 
picliing  ch  srries,  and  get  winged  by  a  stray  ball. 

Amos  w  IS  a  host  of  remarkable  versatility.  If 
a  man  wai  ited  to  eat,  a  bountiful  table  was  al- 
ways prep,  ired;  if  he  wanted  to  fight,  all  he  had 
to  do  was  bo  go  out  a  few  steps  and  enter  the 
ring.  If  anybody  got  '  'past  varigation"  he  was 
piL^d  into  bhe  cellar.  One  man  was  killed  out- 
right here  and  others  have  been  probed,  dismem- 
bered, maimed  and  their  faces  made  to  resemble 
an  animated  war-map. 

One  man  of  Gastonia  thus  giveth  his  experience 
at  this  noted  resort.  This  was  his  first  visit,  and 
he  was  nob  conversant  with  cherry-bounce  and 
its  effects  on  the  human  system  or  society.  He 
was  noted  for  deep  piety,  and  had  never  felt 
the  p£-ngs  of  the  worm  of  the  still  '  'outvenomous 
all  the  wo  -ms  of  the  Mle."  He  asked  a  man  of 
veiy  benij  n  visage  would  bounce  cause  intoxica- 
tion. Th(  old  pilgrim  skinned  his  eye-balls  de- 
voutly hesven- ward,  and  said:  "Oh  no,  son,  the 
pangs  of  c  lerry  bounce  are  not  venomous. "  Like 
the  blesse(  L  dew  from  heaven  it  blesses  him  that 
gives  and  lim  that  takes. "  The  unsophisticated 
youth  of  a  pious  turn  of  mind  quaffed  sundry 
glasses.  ''.  'he  next  thing  he  remembers,  he  was 
offering  a  standing  salary  for  some  one  to  step  on 
the  smokii  tg  tails  of  his  coat. 

A  wooly  necked  walking  delegate  from  Taylors- 
ville,  N.  C.  told  him  he  was  there  or  thereabout. 
The  modt  1  young  man  cast  his  eyes  about  him 
and  saw,  i  i  close  proximity,  a  magnificent  ruin  in 
the  way  oj  horseflesh.  On  this  ancient  ruin  was 
an  old  saddle  with  iron  stirrups.    The  pious  youth 

30  A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Oweists'  Life. 

from  Gastonia  cut  the  stirrup  leather  off  near  the 
saddle  and  had  a  fine  sling-shot.  He  smote  the 
offending  gentleman  from  Taylorsville  and  has 
not  seen  or  heard  of  him  since.  He  rather  thinks 
the  man  died. 


In  the  days  of  so-called  chivalry,  there  were 
trials  of  skill  among  the  knighthood,  in  which  the 
tournament  contest  was  a  principal  feature. 

Knights  fought  on  horse-back  armed  with  lances 
animated  by  the  victors  privilege  of  crowning  the 
queen  of  love  and  beauty.  The  scenes  at  Cherry 
Mountain  were  dashed  with  a  flavor  of  this  spirit, 
and  contests  and  rivalries  of  every  description 
were  adjusted  at  this  place  during  the  cherry  sea 
son,  under  the  martial  inspiration  of  bounce.  Did 
a  man  suffer  the  pangs  of  unprized  love?  Here 
he  could  meet  hi&  successful  rival,  and  the  blended 
ceremonies  of  the  gladiatorial  ring,  the  tourna- 
ment, and  the  code  of  the  antebellum  Kentucky 
corn  shucking  were  at  his  service.  Sometimes  it 
was  an  encounter  between  two  agile  and  muscular 
giants  who  gloried  in  their  skill  with  their  dukes. 
In  these  contests  they  stripped  to  the  waist  enter- 
ed the  ring,  and  each  principal  was  backed  by  a 

No  regard  was  had  for  recognized  ring  rules  un- 
der which  prize  fighters  strive  for  supremacy,  but 
either  participant  was  allowed  to  strike  above  or 
below  the  belt,  and  no  restrictions  or  limitations 
were  provided  against  biting,  gouging,  or  stamp- 
ing an  adversary.  Sometimes  in  the  language  of 
James  Owens  the  cousin  of  Amos,  '  'pieces  of  noses, 
fingers,  toes  and  ears,  fairly  'kivered'  the  earth. " 
A  difficulty  of  this  kind  generally  resulted  in  a 
free  fight,  in  which  perhaps  fifty  would  partici- 

While  a  law  has  been  for  a  long    time    on    our 

A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life.  31 

statute  bot)ks  against  duelling,    many    affairs    of 
this  kind  Iiave  resulted  at  this  rendezvous. 

In  perhaps  a  dozen  cases,  men  have  been  placed 
at  twenty  paces,  fired  at  the  word  of  command, 
and  shot  to  kill.  The  fact  that  many  of  them 
were  in  the  condition  of  having  a  '  'wabble  in  the 
gait  and  an  uncertain  look  in  the  eye,"  cheap  pis- 
tols and  bad  markmanshipj  is  all  that  has  pre- 
vented fatil  ending. 

As  it  is  iiany  have  been  slightly  wounded  in 
these  affairs  of  honor,  and  as  before  stated,  in  the 
free  fights  where  pistols,  guns,  knives  and  brick- 
bats were  as  plentiful  as^ '  'razors  in  the  air"  at  a 
colored  church  festival,  many  were  injured.  An- 
other diversion  was  gander  pulling.  This  relief 
of  barbari  :5m  has  been  absolute  for  probably  fifty 
years  everf  where  else,  but  at  Cherry  Mountain  it 
made  its  last  stand.  A  gander  would  be  caught, 
his  legs  tii)d  together,  and  tied  to  a  horizontal 
bar.  He  would  be  left  swinging  eight  feet  from 
the  ground,  and  his  neck  and  head  greased. 

Every  participant  in  this  diversion  would  be 
mounted,  md  was  to  ride  at  full  speed  by  the  gan- 
der and  tr  y  to  pull  off  his  head.  The  greased 
neck  mad( )  this  difficult,  as  the  gander,  realizing 
that  self  presenation  is  the  first  law  of  nature, 
would  doc  ge,  and  the  scene  would  become  revolt- 

The  mounts  would  be  grostesque  in  the  extreme. 
Horses  wi1h  one  eye,  horses  in  the  last  stage  of 
pov-erty  ar  d  enfeebled  age,  blind  horses,  mules  of 
every  age,  color  and  previous  condition  of  ser- 
vitude, and  actually  oxen,  bore  these  modern 
knights  in  this  peculiar  and  revolting  tourna- 
ment. To  those  who  never  saw  an  ox  under  the 
saddle,  it  nay  be  incredible  that  he  can  be  made 
to  gallop,  )ut  a  mountaineer  with  two  spurs  can 
dispel  thai  illusion.  To  see  old  Burt  Franklin  on 
his  muley  ox,  barefooted  and    wearing  two  spurs. 

32  A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

no  one  would  think  the  bovine  either  slow  or  pat- 
ient. Burt  was  the  champion  "gander-puller," 
and  was,  withal,  a  character  of  peculiar  interest. 
He  had  served  he  said,  in  the  Indian  war  under 
the  stern  old  Hickory  Jackson,  was  in  the  Mexi- 
can war  under  General  Scott,  and  later,  served  as  a 
volunteer  under  the  stormy  cross  of  Lee  and  Jack- 
son in  the  Southern  Confederacy.  He  never  ac- 
cumulated any  property,  and  never  seemed  to 
want  anything  better  than  to  be  at  every  festivity 
of  Cherry  Mountain. 

He  had  the  strength  of  a  giant,  could  walk  six- 
ty miles  a  day,  and  ride  like  a  Centaur. 

He  is  still  living  at  the  age  of  98,  and 
when  the  cry  came  up  from  the  stricken 
Pearl  of  the  Antilles,  he  rode  his  ox  twenty  miles 
to  a  recruiting  station  with  his  "old  enfield"  on 
his  shoulder,  togething  with  the  ancient  cartridge 
box  that  was  bullet  pierced  in  the  days  of  '61  to 
'65,  and  wanted  to  "remember  the  Maine."  The 
recruiting  officer  laughed  and.  told  him  to  go 
home,  prepare  to  meet  his  God,  and  send  some  of 
his  grand  children. 

He  straightened  his  tall  form,  flashed  his  eye, 
and  swore  he  could  out-run,  out-jump,  out-side, 
out-march  and  out  shoot  his  own  or  any  body 
else's  grand- children.  He  tried  several  other 
times  to  enlist,  and  will  die  mad,  if  he  ever  dies 
at  all,  because  he  was  not  allowed  to  help  subdue 
the  haughty  Dons. 

Another  popular  diversion  of  this  celebrated 
resort,  is  chicken  fighting.  No  man  is  allowed  to 
put  a  goff  on  his  champion,  but  the  encounters 
are  slugging  matches  pure  and  simple. 

Dog  fighting  is  also  popular,  for  the  canine  is 
more  venerated  in  this  region  than  the  sacred 
white  elephant  in  Indian  Tor  the  crocodile  in 
Egypt.  In  Kentucky  they  talk  horse  and  here 
they  talk  dog.     The    exercises,    during  the  June 

A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life.  33 

carnival  sf^ason,  reminds  one  of  a  modern  '  'mid- 
way plaisance."  At  one  place  "a  break-down"  is 
in  progress,  when  the  dancing  to  the  music  of  fid- 
dle and  be.njo  is  fast  and  furious,  while  others 
will  be  ou:  riding  a  "flying  Jennie."  At  another 
place  a  chicken  dispute  is  in  progress,  in  which  a 
gigantic  diing-hill  is  trying  conclusions  with  a 
Georgia  "shawlneck."  Other  groups  are  telling 
the  old  story,  sighing  like  a  furnace,  alternately 
coquetting;  and  exchanging  vows  of  eternal  con- 

Anothei  contingent,  headed  by  old  Burt  Frank- 
lin, who  are  lustily  cheering  the  gander  pulling 

In  another  quarter  a  free  fight  is  in  progress, 
and  a  scene  is  being  enacted  that  would  relegate 
hitherto  cj  assic  and  celebrated  Dony brook  to  eter- 
nal obscurity.  Still  another  squad  are  having  a 
passage  at  arms  between  a  '  'bench  legged  fice" 
and  a  margy  hound  of  uncertain  age. 


The  pist  )1  duel  at  word  of  command  is  not  of 
frequent  cscurrence,  but  one  was  pulled  off  five 
yeji^rs  sine* ;  between  two  gentlemen  of  color  that 
wa?  charai  teristic.  One  coon  by  the  name  of 
"J;ick  Badness,"  and  another  known  as  J.  Dudley 
Bomar  hacL  an  ancient  grudge  which  was  all  on 
account  ol  Eliza.  Her  name  was  Eliza  Bigger- 
staff  and  s  he  was  a  decided  brunette.  She  had 
losv  an  eyt  and  was  aged  47.  The  eye  loss  was 
the  result  of  a  contest  with  her  former  husband 
who  had  g  3ne  from  rest  to  refreshment,  but  before 
his  depart  ire  had  stabbed  her  in  the  eye  with  a 
scribe  awl.  for  he  was  a  shoe  maker. 

While  h  3  lived  they  both  nearly  starved  but 
when  he  shuffled  off  some  six  feet  of  mortal 
coil,  she  b:  5came  a  colored  capitalist.  As  a  cook 
she  was  in  demand,  and  rumor  said  she  had  over 

34  A  HisTOKY  OF  AMofe  Owens'  JUtfe/, 

140  to  her  credit.  Here  was  an  opportuiiaty  ■  to 
capture  aii  heiress,  and  while  Jack  Badness  was 
23,  and  J.  D.  Bomar  25  years  of  age,  that  matter 
of  $40  covered  a  .multitude  of  defects,  one-eyed 
and  otherwise,  and  removed  any  disparity  in 
years.  Both  would  call  every  evening  at  the 
hours  in  which  "little  Annie  Rooney"  received 
visits,  and  would  eat  a  hearty  meal  at  the  ex- 
pense ;of  their  insomoratta.  They  would- then 
scowl  at;  each  other  and  strap  their  razors. 

At  length  their  aggrieved  "honor"  could  no 
longer  tolerate  such  a  state  of  affairs,  and  J.  Dud- 
ley Bomar  sent  by  his  friend  and  second,  the  ReY; 
Geo.  Washington  Deck,  the  following  challenge: 
"To  the  lazy,  pokey,  lowzy,  good  fox  iiuthin  nigger 
what  is  called  Jack  Badness,  who  is  always  loofin 
round  whar  heihaint  wanted.  A 

Ef  ;you  haintskeered  to  deth,  you,  can  meet  me 
at  (ShQrry  Mounting  day  after  to-morrow. 

Bring  your  gun,    for  I  is    goin  to  shoot    you  so 
full  of  holes  that    ef  all  de    places  is    filled  with 
wooden  pins  you'd  make  a  good  hat  rack. 
Yours  to' kill,       ' 

J.  Dudley  Bomar." 
■:;  Jack  Badness,  after^  a  very  labored  composition, 
evolved  ithe    following,    and  sent    it  back  by  his 
trusted    friend     and     second,     "Spotted     Buck 
Sweezy:"  ■■■ :'  ■ ,      .  .., .  ,■ 

'  'To  de  lyin,  loofin,  thevin  son  of  a  gun  what 
stole  de  money  off  en  a  dead  man's  eyes,  and  am  a 
coward  an  blow  hard,  allow  me  to  say  dot  you 
axed  me  to  beat  Cherry  Mounting  if  I  aint  skeered. 

Never  you  mine,  I'll  be  dar.  T^lk  about  gun- 
nin.;Iis  gwine  to  fillyou  so  full  of  lead  dat  youll 
out- weigh  old  Burt  Franklin's  big  roan  steer. 
Don't  you  fret,  111  be  dar. 

Yours  on  de  shoot. 

Jack  Badness." 

Day  after  to-morrow  came  around  and  J.    Dud- 

A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life.  35 

ley  Bomar  and  Ms  staff  came  near  beating  "day 
after  to-morrow"  under  the  string.  His  first  ques- 
tion was, ' '  whar  is  dat  flat-nosed  kidney^f ooted 
niggah?"  tlethen  drew  a  British  bull  dog,  Calibre 
38,  and  seemed  eager  for  the  fray. 

In  about  an  hour  Jack  Badness,  with  his  friend 
Spotted  Buck  Sweezy,  came  leisurely  up  the 
mountain.  The  news  had  sprea  d,  and  people  were 
there  from  Rutherfordton,  Shelby,  Marion,  Mor- 
ganton  and  Forest  City  to  witness  the  encounter. 

The  vaunting  Bomar  began  to  show  signs  of 
agitation  as  Col.  Jack  Badness  pulled  an  eight- 
inch  "cap-and-ball"  six-shooter. 

The  distance,  twenty  paces,  ^ was  measured  and 
the  principals  told  to  take  their  positions.  Henry 
Houser,  of  Grassy  Branch,  was  to  giye  the 
word  c'ommand,  and  stepping  forward,  said: 
"Grentlemen,  are  you  ready?"  'T  is,"  came  the 
defiant  answer  of  Jack  Badness,  but  Bomar 
gasped,  and  the  words  he  tried  to  .utter  seemed 
to  die  away  in  the  i^afters  <of  his  mouth.  .  His 
kne^  wer(3! knocking  and  ;  his  -teeth  chattering, 
whife  his  face  took  on  the  blue  gray  hue,  that 
?al ways  betrays  agitation  in  the  negro. 
^  Henry .  Houser  continued :  ' 'Attention !  .At 
the  <woi:d  c;ne,  raise  your  pistols.  At  the  word 
two,  takejiim."  At 'the  word  three,  fire."  J.  Dud-^ 
ley  Bomar  was 'sb;agitated  that  all  he  knew  was,: 
he  heard  t  lie  woxd  fire.  sHe  pressed  the  trigger  of 
his  pistol:  fuhd  a  roarshowed  he  had  commenced 
the  fray.  '  But  i his  ball  : missed  his  adversary  at 
least  twen  :y  five  feet,  and  went  into  an  upper 
story  of  the  famous  castle  Owens;  knocking  the 
tail  fieathers  olltof  an  eight  day  clock.  Biscre- 
tion  then  ^:ot  the  better  part  of  valor,  and  hie  fled 
incontinently.:  Then  Badness  started  in  swift 
pursuit,  firing  his  eight  inch  navy. at  every  jump. 
Several  pin  e  boughs  if  ell  around  the  fleeing  Bo- 
mar, but  to  this  day  no  onekno'Ws  the    extent'  of 

36  A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

his  injuries.  He  never  came  back,  and  two  weeks 
later  Jack  Badness  had  captured  the  widow  with 
$40,  and  now  has  an  oyster,  sardine  and  cider 
saloon  on  historic  Cherry  Mountain.  His  wife 
still  has  one  eye,  and  still  cooks  and  takes  in 
washing.  But  she  and  that  $40  have  parted  com- 


Though  this  historic  place  is  in  twelve  miles  of 
Rutherfordton  twenty-five  miles  of  Shelby,  both 
good  law  abiding  towns,  by  common  consent  this 
has,  until  very  recently,  been  no  man's  land  as 
far  as  the  enforcement  of  law  is  concerned.  Amos 
Owens  has  repeatedly  heard  the  ornate  charges 
of  the  judge  to  the  jury  and  grand  jury  where  the 
resonant  language  of  his  honor  would  recite: 
"The  majesty  of  the  law  stands  on  eternal  vigil 
at  the  threshold  of  every  home,  and  the  dweller 
in  the  lowly  hovel  as  well  as  the  palace  comes 
alike  under  her  beneficent  protection."  Amos 
knew,  as  far  as  his  own  expenience  was  concern- 
ed, that  he  could  be  maltreated,  his  property  de- 
stroyed, and  no  legel  redress  for  him  in  his  rights 
of  person  or  property.  On  the  other  hand,  until 
very  recently,  whoever  went  there  to  engage  in 
the  festivities  took  his  life  in  his  hand,  and  had 
to  be  quick-triggered  to  command  respect. 

Boys  and  girls  have  performed  acts  of  vandal- 
ism at  this  place,  that  would  have  disgraced  the 
wild  orgies  of  a  negro  festival,  and  nobody  pur- 

Such  treatment  has  done  much  to  determine 
his  hitherto  lawless  character.  While  tliis  writer 
is  not  upholding  the  whiskey  traffic  or  manufac- 
ture, legal  or  otherwise,  it  seems  that  Amos  has, 
in  many  instances,  been  a  peculiar  object  of  per- 
secution by  the  red-legged  grass-hopper. 

While  he  has  defiantly  and  persistently  violated 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life.  37 

the  revenue  laws,  in  the  hackneyed  language  of 
the  present  '  'there  are  others. " 

Many  persons  by  an  unfortunate  combination  of 
circumstar.ces,  become  outlaws^  that  no  amount 
of  prevemion  and  coercion  can  reclaim,  and 
Amos  is  a  man  of  this  character. 

We  left  him  on  his  second  return  from  Sing 
Sing,  defiant  and  impenitent.  The  tall  spectral 
pines  stood  on  eternal  vigil  near  the  defile  where 
his  distillery  was  in  operation,  the  flickering 
lights  of  his  furnace  were  shed  on  the  eternal 
rock-ribbed  heights  of  his  famous  mountain,  and 
his  work  pursued  the  noiseless  tenor  of  its  way. 
We  can  but  think,  that  at  times,  when  "far  from 
the  maddening  crowd's  ignoble  strife,  with  none  to 
see  his  '  'deeds  of  darkness"  but  God  and  the  rad- 
iant stars  E'.bove,  his  bitter  nature  would  assert 
itself  and  a  voiceless  cry  would  go  out  from  his 
heart  in  the  silent  watches  of  the  night;  but  if  so, 
he  suffered  and  gave  no  sign.  The  minister  would 
rise  in  his  pulpit,  wax  eloquent  in  the  recital  of 
the  sins  of  Amos  Owens  against  God  and  against 
society,  bii  fc  did  one  ever  go  and  administer  tv^ords 
of  ])rother]y  reproof?  The  staid  church  member 
would  invt  igh  against  the  evils  of  intemperance, 
and  then  h  ave  some  vagabond  to  go  and  see  if 
"Old  Amoi  Owens"  would  not  send  him  two  gal- 
lons to  tak  3  the  bad  taste  out  of  his  mouth.  The 
young  mai,  who  parted  his  hair  in  the  middle 
and  taughi  a  class  in  Sunday  School,  Would  go 
up  in  cher]  y  time,  get  drunk  as  the  Pied  Piper  of 
Hamelin,  1  >reak  dishes,  knock-down  doors^  smash 
windows,  i  urn  over  the  milk  and  swear  like  a 
seaman;  ar  d  then  say  it  was  all  the  fault  of  old 
Amos  Owe  as:  The  adoring  uncles,  cousins,  aunts 
and  parents  would  say  it  was  even  so,  smd  pray 
the  good  LDrd  to  bless  the  labors  of  the  red-legged 
grass-hopper.  Then  would  it  occur  to  this  hunt- 
ed areh-bl3ckader   that  "man's    inhumanity   to 

38  A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  hiFm 

man  makes  countless  millions  mourn." 

Soon  the  avenger  was  again  on  his  track,  for  as 
he  rode  through  the  state  of  '  'Pitchfork  Ben  Till- 
man," he  was  held  up  near  Gaffney,  and  his  fine 
horse,  new  wagon,  and  a  barrel  of  contraband, 
confiscated.  He  was  placed  behind  the  bars  of 
the  Columbia  jail,  and  was  later  tried  and  sen- 
tenced to  a  term  of  six  month's  imprisonment  and 
a  fine  of  one  hundred  dollars  imposed.  Being 
allowed  to  name  his  prison  he  chose  Yorkville, 
South  Carolina.  Here  an  incident  occurred  that 
showed  his  courage,  sense  of  gratitude,  and  devo- 
tion to  friends.  Men  of  deep-seated  convictions 
and  great  firmness  are  almost  invariably  bitter 
enemies  and  ardent  friends. 

Sheriff  Grienn  of  York  county  was  a  man  of  hu- 
mane and  generous  impulses,  and  by  his  kindness 
won  the  undying  friendship  of  Amos.  Qn  ope 
occasion  three  desperate  negroes  resolved  in  malt- 
ing a  break  for  liberty.  Jumping  on  the  Sheriff 
while  alone,  they  would  have  soon  taken  his  life, 
for  the  brutal  instinct  of  a  savage  shows  no  mercy 
to  a  fallen  foe.  Amos  and  a  man  from  Catawba 
county,  of  this  state,  came  to  the  relief  of  the 
brave  oflicer,  and  the  blows  of  our  stalwart  hero 
went  with  the  force  of  a  catapult.  One  giant  fell 
at  his  first  blow,  and  his  comrade  and  the  ex- 
hausted sheriff  entertained  the  other  who  was 
also  an  Ethiopian  Hercules.  The  daring  leader 
of  the  three  was  yet  on  foot,  and  with  his  firm 
visage,  broad  shoulders,  and  corded  muscles,  de- 
velop zd  in  a  turpentine  orchard  "pulling  boxes," 
was  not  to  be  despised.  Towering  six  ieet  two, 
and  weighing  205,  he  felt  that  he  could  use  up  all 
opposition.  He  let  out  a  terrific  right  at  our  hero 
which  was  nimbly  dodged.  Then  with  a  left  that 
would  have  won  the  admiration  of  Col.  John  L. 
Sullivan,  Amos  dropped  the  colored  son  of  Anak 
senseless  to  the  floor.     The  sheriff  had  now  recov- 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life.  39 

ered,  and  ^vith  the  li sip  of  the  man  from  Catawba, 
the  other  two  were  secured.  The  Sheriff  was  too 
generous  to  let  such  conduct  on  the  part  of  our 
hero  and  his  confederate  go  unrewarded.  Except 
nominally,  they  were  free  men,  and  carried  the 
■prison  keyM.  Amos  was  the  Joseph  of  the  prison, 
but  unlike  the  Joseph  of  inspiration,  he  was  not 
an  interpreter  of  dreams. 

Certain  it  is  however,  that  ever  after  during  his 
incarcerati  Dii,  he  had  a  whiff  every  morning  of 
the  medical  preparation  known  as  peach  and 
honey,  anc  on  the  morning  after  their  heroic  ad- 
venture, h  3  and  his  campanion  were  the  recipient 
of  a  pound  cake,  which,  to  use  his  own  quaint  ex- 
preysion,  was  "bigger'n  a  bosses  head."  At  the 
end  of  five  months  he  was  released,  and  one  hun- 
dred dollars  extra  were  paid  into  his  hand.  To 
this  day  h(  ■.  i^  touched  by  this  act  of  benevolence, 
and  the  hi.mane  treatment  accorded  him  here  is 
like  the  sjiadow  of  a  great  reck  in  a  weary  land 
in  his  vari(3d  and  melancholly  experience. 

He  further  gives  an  amusing  experience  with 
bee  J,  durii.g  this  period  of  incarceration. 

All  mouitain  men  have  bees,  and  are  expert  in 
their  management.  On^  day  Amos  heard  the 
:wai'ning  wliirr,  and  notified  the  sheriff's  wife. 
She  sent  fcr  that  official.,  but  he  was  busy  in  the 
office,  and  sent  word  to  let  Amos  Owens  hive  the 

The  bees  had  on  full  war-paint  and  charged  a 
passing  mi  lister,  and  tasted  the  lovely  complexion 
of  the  beai.tif  ul  belle  of  the  ball  who  was  also 
passing.  Her  shrieks  brought  out  a  policeman 
with  blue  coat  and  button,  but  they  respected  not 
his  badge  ctf  office.  A  "sissy"  looking  dude  was 
•riding  by  en  a  thorough  bred,  and  the  the  bees 
fired  at  thi^  horse  and  rider  hj  file  and  then  by 
volley.  T]ie  dude  being  unhorsed,  lifted  up  his 
voice  and  said  he  WA^  stabbed,  but  the  bees  heed- 

40  A  HisTOKY  OF  Amos  Owens'  LifbI 

ed  not  his  signal  of  distress.  Then  Amos  advan- 
ced, and  to  use  his  expression,  "the  pickets  fired 
and  run  in."  Like  Grant,  he  moved  immediately 
on  their  works,  and  demanded  unconditional  sur- 
render. They  charged  him  but  what  cared  he  for 
a  few  upstart  Italian  bees,  when  he  had  never 
been  vanguished  by  Uncle  Sam,  and  his  legions 
of  red-legged  grass-hoppers? 

The  bees  rose  and  took  to  flight,  but  he  camped 
on  their  trail.  They  settled  in  a  big  oak  30  feet 
from  the  ground,  but  he  built  a  high  scaffold.  He 
hived  ever  mother's  son  of  them,  brought  them 
back,  a  distance  of  400  yards,  and  deposited  the 
hive  in  the  colony,  singing,  in  the  meantime; 
"God  Save  the  Queen." 


On  his  discharge  he  went  home,  and  as  his  still 
was  destroyed,  he  bought  another  outfit.  The  or- 
der was,  on  with  the  dance,  and  for  three  years 
the  work  boomed  serenely  on,  with  no  revenue  in- 
terference to  molest  or  to  make  afraid.  Besides 
his  calling  as  maker  and  dispenser  of  bounces  he 
resolved  to  build  a  kind  of  tower,  or  observatory, 
Reference  has  before  been  made  to  the  glorious 
view  from  this  eminence,  and  our  hero  set  himself 
to  work  to  build  this  towering  edifice  which  was 
to  be  several  stories  in  height,  and  to  be  provided 
with  up-to-date  opera  glasses,  field  glasses  and  a 
powerful  telescope  for  the  use  of  tourists  and  sci- 
entific men.  Like  the  sweet  singer  of  captive  Is- 
rael he  prepared  his  material  and  like  the  sweet 
singer  he  was  not  allowed  to  build. 

It  is  here  worthy  of  mention,  that  in  the  com- 
plex character  of  our  hero,  there  is  a  strange  con- 
tradiction of  terms.  While  a  difiant  blockader 
that  no  amount  of  punishment  could  chasten  and 
subdue,  he  yet  shows  some  of  the  generous  attri- 
butes of  a  great  nature.     In  his  heroic  defense  of 

A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life.  41 

Sheriff  Glenn  at  Yorkville  jail,  while  he  escaped 
unscathed,  he  boldly  imperiled  his  life  and  limb, 
showing  the  almost  divine  character  portrayed  in 
Revelation:  "Greater  love  hath  no  man  than  this 
that  a  man  shonld  lay  down  his  life  for  his 
friend. " 

Now  we  see  him,  an  unlettered  man  who  does 
not  know  the  lost  pleaides  from  Col.  Henry  Wat- 
terson's  "Star-eyed  goddess  of  Reform, "  preparing 
a  temple  in  the  wilderness  for  the  patronage  of 
science,  a  nd  for  the  comfort  and  convenience  of 
the  people  that  have  calumniated  and  betrayed 
him;  erecting  a  place  of  rest  and  enjoyment,  plac- 
ing the  enchanting  grandsur  of  '  'The  Land  of  the 
Sky"  in  the  range  of  every  one's  vision  who  will 
sweep  the  grand  panorama  with  these  auxiliaries 
of  science. 

We  are  reminded  of  the  saying  of  Jesus  of  Naz- 
areth that  sinners  and  publicans  shall  enter  the 
kingdom  of  the  Lord  before  the  self-righteous 
Pharisee,  and  of  the  sweet  but  sad  couplet  from 
the  "Quaker  Poet": 

'  'In  the  hereafter,  angels  may 

Roll  the  stone  from  its  grave  away. " 


Again  he  had  an  invasion  from  the  cohorts  of 
the  red-legged  grass  hopper,  and  was  taken  to 
Asheville  to  again  sit  on  the  mourner's  bench  be- 
fore Judge  Dick.  It  is  here  worthy  of  remark, 
thai3  with  all  his  fierce  hatred  of  the  revenue  offi- 
cers, he  never  resisted  arrest.  He  therefore  was  as 
usual  like  a  sheep  before  its  shearers,  but  had  his 
teamster  to  load  up  with  "taters,"  Asheville  was 
still  a  great  market  for  taters,  and  the  deal  re- 
sulted in  a  sale  of  "20  bushels  and  40  gallons." 
His  still  was  again  destroyed  but  everything  was 
not  found.  Again  did  Judge  Dick  impose  a  term 
of  twelve  months  imprisoment,  a  fine  of  one  hun- 

43  A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

dred  dollars  and  a  scathing-  rebuke.  Again  did 
Amos  gaze  at  the  whole  judiciary  with  mingled 
scorn  and  defiance,  and  gleefully  hop  '  'onto"  the 
black  moriah  that  conveyed  him  to  the  bastile, 
preparatory  to  going  for  a  third  visit  to  Sing  Sing. 
The  officials  of  that  famed  institution  of  learning 
tendered  the  glad  hand,  and  joy  was  uiiconfined. 
As  the  conductor  announced  the  station,  our  hero 
cackled  with  ungodly  glee  and  yelled  out:  "One 
year  for  rest  and  refreshments."  The  superin- 
tendent said:  Amos,  I  knew  you  would  not  disap- 
point us.  Others  have  said  that  the  memory  of 
the  venerable  delegate  from  North  Carolina 
would  henceforth  be:  "Like  the  touch  of  a  hand 
that  is  vanished,  And  a  voice  that  forever  is 
stilled,"  but  I  said,  "You  don't  know  Amos." 

The  old  offender  with  anger  in  his  eye  and  re- 
proach in  his  tones,  said:  "What  have  I  ever  done 
to  cause  any  one  to  doubt  my  loyalty  to  this  insti- 
tution? Did  I  not  graduate  here,  and  did  I  not 
tell  you  and  your  minions  I  was  coming  back  to 
take  a  post-graduate  course?  If  I  ever  hear 
another  doubt  expressed,  I'll  confer  my  patronage 
on  some  other  institution.  This  is  not  the  only 
"pen"  in  the  world,  and  there  are  others  that 
would  be  glad  to  have  m_e. "  It  will  be  observed 
that  Amos  uses  good  language  for  an  unlettered 
man.  No  one  to  converse  with  him,  would  con- 
sider that  he  is  not  a  man  of  scholarship.  He 
served  his  dreary  sentence,  again  getting  off 
thirty  days  for  good  behavior  and  paying  his  fine 
of  one  hundred  dollars  by  thirty  days  labor.  So, 
at  the  end  of  twelve  months  he  bought  a  new 
"still"  and  went,  even  as  the  dog  feturneth  to  his 
vomit,  to  his  old  vocation.  In  all  he  has  had  nine 
distilling  out-fits  destroyed,  and  has  served  three 
terms  in  the  penitentiary.  A  reaction  took  place, 
and  for  a  time  he  had  respite  from  his  persecu- 
tions.    But  the  work  went  bravely  on,    and  his 

A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  O weirs''  Life.  43 

whiskey,  brandy  and  bonnce  was  still  a  legal 
tender  in  JSTorth  Carolina. 


About  this  time  another  Richmond  appeared  in 
the  field,  and  his  scene  of  operations  was  near 
classic  Cherry  Mountain.  Alternately,  he  was  a 
maker  of  moonshine,  and  a  red-legged  grass-hop- 
per. When  a  maker  of  contraband  he  was  like  a 
bold  buccaneer  of  the  Spanish  main,  and  he  had 
many  bloody  encounters.  He  was  a  Hercules  in 
strength  and  stature,  and  shot  to  kill.  He  led  a 
lawless  life,  and  while  a  generous  man  to  those  he 
liked,  was  a  vindictive  and  uncompromising  foe. 
He  kept  up  a  trade  between  North  and  South 
Carolina,  and  shot  and  maimed  several  parties  in 
personal  encounters,  and  finally  the  state  of  South 
Carolina  became  too  hot  to  be  comfortable.  He 
was  imprisoned  several  times,  but  by  the  aid  of 
confederates,  and  fertility  of  resources,  he  always 
managed  to  escape.  Like  Mark  Twain's  war  ex- 
perience, he  "had  fought  bn  both  sides,"  and  the 
moonshiners  never  forgave  him  for  being  a  red- 
legged  grass-hopper,  and  the  marshals  despised 
.him^  for  being  a  dealer  in  contraband  whiskey. 
The  plot  thickened,  and  he  had  so  many  personal 
difiiculties  that  he  resorted  to  deeds  of  violence 
that  caused  a  price  to  be  placed  on  his  head.  He 
armed  himself,  and  in  the  defiles  of  Cherry  Moun- 
tain defied  the  conservators  of  law  and  order.  His 
reti  ea;t  was  discovered,  and  a  posse  led  by  a  vete- 
ran red-legged  grass-hopper,  invaded  his  lair. 
"Slipping  up  on  him,"  in  mountain  parlance,  the 
pos^ie  enjoined  him  to  surrender.  He  turned  at 
bay,  threw  his  rifle  to  his  face,  and  whistled  a 
bullet  through  the  hair  of  the  man  he  most  in- 
tensely hated  on  earth — the  reviled  publican  or 
red-legged  grass-hopper.  His  shot  was  answered 
by  a  volley  from  the  Winchesters,  shot-guns  and 

44  A  HiSTOKY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

revolvers  of  his  hunters.  He  fell  bleeding  from 
half  a  dozen  wounds,  but  with  fierce  oaths,  tried 
to  again  "pump  lead"  with  his  Winchester.  He 
was  disarmed  and  carried  to  prison.  His  leg  was 
shattered  at  the  thigh  by  a  ball  from  a  44  Win- 
chester, three  pistol  balls  had  struck  him  and  two 
charges  of  No.  4  shot  were  in  his  body.  Every 
one  thought  he  would  die,  but,  as  usual,  every 
one  was  mistaken.  He  languished  in  jail  till 
court,  when  the  Judge  in  compassion  for  his  ter- 
rible wounds,  gave  him  the  privilege  of  leaving 
the  state.  He  took  the  offer,  and  speedily  absent- 
ed himself  from  North  Carolina  society.  With 
all  his  faults  he  was  a  generous,  hospitable  fellow, 
and  a  warm  friend  of  the  writer.  His  people  still 
live  in  the  counties  of  Rutherford  and  Cleveland, 
and  are  among  the  most  honored  citizens  of  both 


Before  we  give  the  final  chapter  in  the  life  and 
public  serrices  of  Amos  Owens,  brief  notice  shall 
be  taken  of  an  ex-blockader  who  has  reformed 
and  shows  symptoms  of  engaging  in  the  minisitry. 
He  was  a  maker  of  whiskey,  a  salesman  of  the 
same,  and  feared  neither  God  nor  regarded  man. 
To  him  the  red-legged  grass-hopper  also  became  a 
burden,  and  on  more  than  one  occasion  he  trod 
the  wine-press  of  tribulation,  and  '  'played  check- 
ers with  his  nose  upon  the  prison  bars."  At 
length  his  own  familiar  friends  became  his  ene- 
mies, and  he  and  his  brother-in-law  tried  conclu- 
sions in  which  a  pistol,  a  sling  shot,  and  a  rock 
all  figured.  The  hero  of  this  sketch  pulled  for 
greener  fields  and  pastures  new,  but  the  villians 
still  pursued  him.  He  was  leading  a  very  exem- 
plary life  at  Polkville  in  Cleveland  county,  when 
a  Rutherford  constable,  with  the  power  of  ap- 
parently, the  entire  county  at  his  back,   told  the 

A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life.  45 

offender  to  put  up  his  liands.  This  he  did,  and  a 
search  of  his  pockets  revealed  nothing  more  dead- 
ly than  a  small  plow- wrench.  He  was  placed  un- 
der heavy  bond,  with  orders  to  report  at  Cherry 
Mountain  on  a  day  and  d^te  provided.  The  un- 
fortunate came  to  this  writer  and  said  that  our 
services  were  desired  as  attorney  in  his  behalf. 
He  was  told  that  Ye  scribe  was  not  a  lawyer,  but 
tried  to  be  an  honest  man.  He  was.  asked  why 
we  were  taken  for  a  lawyer.  He  said:  "a  man 
who  contested  everything,  conceded  nothing  and 
talked  by  the  hour  was  a  lawyer  by  nature, 
instinct  and  profession."  We  reported  at  the 
temple  of  justice  on  Cherry  Mountain,  one  mile 
from  Castle  Owens,  and  found  every-body  in  that 
region  was  a  partisan,  on  one  side  or  the  other. 
The  learned  magistrate  looked  at  me,  and  asked 
if  I  had  a  license  to  practice  law.  He  was  informed 
that  some  men  have  a  roving  commission  and  can 
practice  where  they  please.  The  trial  proceeded, 
and  it  was  racy.  When  we  cross-examined  a 
woman  in  the  case,  she  invariably  used  her  last 
and  strongest  argument — tears.  Finally  every- 
thing wept,  but  the  "lawyer,"  his  client  and  the 
mules  that  furnished  our  means  of  transportation 
to  the  trial.  The  magistrate  looked  wise,  said  it 
was  a  "haynous"  offense  with  which  my  client 
was  charged.  He  gave  it  as  his  opinion  that  my 
client  should  be  hung,  and  called  on  him  to  stand 
up  and  receive  the  death  sentence.  He  was  in- 
formed that  the  defendant  should  not  hang,  or  if 
he  did,  I'd  see  that  the  other  fellow  was  hung  too. 
He  finally  released  the  defendant  who  came  home, 
took  the  pledge,  and  now  wants  to  preach,  but 
can't  read. 


We  now  come  to  the  last  time  Amos  Owens  was 
called  to  appear  before  a  tribunal  for  violation  of 

46  A  HiSTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

the  revenue  laws. 

In  1890  he  was  arrested,  and  taken  before  Judge 
Dick  in  Charlotte,  'N.  C.  His  head  was  now  white 
as  the  driven  snow,  and  the  tender  heart  of  Judge 
Dick  was  touched  with  pity.  Tears  rose  to  his 
kindly  eyes,  for  the  official  was  a  man  of  generous 
and  humane  impulses.  In  a  voice  vibrant  with 
emotion,  he  said:  "Amos  Owens,  stand  up. 
Three  times  you  have  worn  the  garb  of  a  convict, 
and  time  and  again  have  you  been  fined  and  im- 
prisoned. You  are  said  to  be  a  man  of  noble  im- 
pulses and  many  worthy  traits  of  character. 
Your  gray  hairs  should  be  a  crown  of  glory  in- 
stead of  a  badge  of  infamy.  Amos,  you  and  I  are 
on  the  shady  side  of  the  hill  of  life,  and  soon 
shall  be  called  from  time  to  eternity.  Why  do 
you  live  the  life  of  an  Ishmael  with  your  hand 
raised  against  the  majesty  of  tlie  law  and  the 
hand  of  organized  society  against  you^^  Amos,  I 
can  but  believe  there  are  deep  and  hidden  well- 
springs  of  good  in  your  nature,  and  ere  I  am 
called  to  the  bar  of  a  just  God,  I  shall  appeal  to 
the  generosity  of  your  better  nature.  Amos,  as 
man  speaks  to  man,  will  you  cease  to  violate  the 
laws  of  you  country  and  to  be  an  out-cast  of  so- 
cietyf  An  intense  hush  pervaded  the  court 
room,  for  never  before  had  -any  appeal  been  made 
to  the  generous  nature  of  this  ancient  transgres- 

Then  something  happened  that  the  shock  of 
battle,  the  groans  and  shrieks  of  dying  comrades, 
the  privations  of  army  prison  life  and  the  frown- 
ing walls  of  Sing  Sing  has  failed  to  call  forth. 

The  hardened  look  of  defiance  faded  from  his 
face,  tears  welled  to  his  eyes,  his  rugged  frame 
shook  with  feeling.  In  a  voice  choking  with  emo- 
tion he  said;  "Judge,  I'll— try."  The  effect  was 
electrical.  All  the  judicial  dignity  in  the  State 
could  not  have  restrained  the  rapturous  yell  that 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life.  47 

rose  from  the  audience,  for  the  house  was  packed 
to  everflowing.  The  sight  of  the  audacious  moon- 
shiner who  had  hitherto  seemed  to  have  a  de- 
moniac spirit  that  no  man  could  tame,  weeping, 
with  contrition  at  the  bar  of  Justice,  and  the 
dignified  judge  in  tears;  convinced  all  present 
that  '  'a  touch  of  nature  makes  us  all  wondrous 

The  lawyers  present,  the  representatives  of  the 
press,  and  many  others,  including  a  red  legged- 
grass  hopper,  grasped  his  hand  in  welcome.  Then 
and  thereupon  the  lawyers  of  Shelby,  Charlotte 
and  Rutherfordton  "chipped  in"  and  bought  him 
a  fine  beaver  and  a  pair  of  gold-baned  eye-glasses. 
His  storm-rent  and  battle  scarred  visage  took  on  a 
softer  light  than  ever  before,  and  he  went  his  way, 
it  is  hoped,  to  sin  no  more. 

Judge  Dick  has  been  called  to  his  record,  and 
Amos  venerates  his  memory.  Pretty  much  all  his 
original  enemies  have  likewise  passed  over  the 
river,  and  he  is  now  enthroned  at  Cherry  Moun- 
tain— listening  at  the  wind  wailing  through  his 
forest  pines,  aud  looking  with  pride  on  his  one 
thousand  Inroad  acres.  With  the  exception  of 
George  Vanderbilt,  he  is  the  only  man  that  owns 
an  entire  mountain  in  the  State.  While  the  red- 
legged  grass-hopper  has  ceased  to  be  a  burden,  his 
head  flourishes  like  the  almond  tree,  those  that 
look  out  of  the  window  are  becoming  darkened, 
and  the  strong  man  begins  to  tremble.  Let  us 
hope,  that  when  the  pitcher  is  broken  at  the 
fountain  and  the  golden  cord  be  loosened,  when 
the  mourners  go  about  the  streets ;  that  he  shall 
b3  with  the  redeemed  around  the  great  white 
throne.  Should  he  be  with  that  favored  multi- 
tude, it  can  certainly  apply  to  his  case:  "These 
are  they  who  came  up  through  great  tribulations. " 
Whatever  may  be  his  fate  in  eternity,  he  is  cer- 
tainly the  most  wonderful    blockader,  quick    or 

48  A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Oweks'  Life. 

dead,  and  it  can  be  said  of  him  as  of  Napoleon,  the 
Great,  "The  man  withont  a  model  and  without  a 


Recently,  signs  have  been  discovered  that  this 
mountain  is  fall  of  valuable  mineral.  Three- 
fourths  of  the  world's  supply  of  mica  is  found  in 
North  Carolina,  and  a  mine  is  being  worked  here 
that  contains  this  mineral  in  paying  quantities. 
The  forest  wealth  of  this  mountain,  were  it  near 
a  good  market,  would  be  the  means  of  an  im- 
mense fortune  to  some  shifty  up-to-date  investor. 
This  State  has  more  varieties  of  timber  than  the 
same  area  anywhere  else  on  earth,  and  every  kind 
of  tree  is  found  here  that  grows  in  the  State  ex- 
cept about  three  species  that  abound  in  the  tide- 
water region.  It  is,  besides,  the  natural  home  of 
many  medicinal  herbs,  among  others  the  famous 
ginseng  or  "Sang"  as  it  is  called  in  mountain  par- 
lance. All  who  have  ever  read  '  'The  Sang  Dig- 
ger" by  Amelia  Rino  Chandler,  know  that  the 
ginseng  root  has  great  commercial  value.  The 
best  customers  are  the  '  'heathen  Chinese, "  who 
use  it  in  their  Joss  houses  in  burning  incense,  and 
also  for  medical  properties.  Gold  has  b9en  found 
on  this  mountain,  also  silver  and  lead.  There  is 
a  well-founded  tradition  that  one  of  the  With- 
rows  in  the  shooting  matches  popular  in  his  day 
and  generation,  always  got  his  lead  from  here, 
but  would  never  tell  any  one  the  location  of  his 
mine.  The  secret  perished  with  him,  but  he  re- 
vealed to  some  confidential  friends,  that  it  was 
somewhere  on  Cherry  Mountain. 

A  few  years  since,  a  firm  in  Germany  discover- 
ed that  monazite,  a  yellow  sand  found  here,  has 
a  great  commercial  value.  It  was  used  to  gener- 
ate an  incandescent  light,  being  like  mica,  im- 
perious   to    ordinary  heat.     The    first  and  most 

A  HisTOEY  OP  Amos  Owens'  Life.  49 

valuable  mine  of  monazite  was  located  on  Cherry 
Mountain,  and  this  industry  made  L.  A.  Gettys, 
then,  a  struggling  and  obscure  school  teacher,  a 
capitalist.  For  beautiful  wild  flowers  this  place 
is  not  surpassed  on  earth,  and  mention  has  been 
before  made  of  the  grand  panorama  of  scenery 
that  unfolds  itself  before  your  gaze.  The  crest  of 
this  mountain  being  in  the  Iso-Thermal  belt, 
peaches,  apples,  grapes,  and  other  fruit  crops  are 
unfailing,  as  they  are  above  the  frost-line.  Were 
a  good  road  built  to  the  top  of  this  mountain,  a 
nice  boulevard  or  driveway  on  top,  an  up  to  date 
hotel  and  observatory,  this  would  be  an  ideal  re- 
sort. In  the  sultry  summer  season  it  would  be  a 
welcome  retreat  for  the  southerner  who  wishes 
surcease  from  heat,  malaria  and  mosquitoes, 
while  it  would,  also,  be  a  delightful  winter  resort 
for  those  who  wish  to  escape  the  rigors  of  a  win- 
ter in  more  northern  climes.  The  present  owner 
of  Cherry  Mountain,  as  befere  stated,  is  unletter- 
ed, and  in  his  circumscribed  sphere,  could  see  no 
way  under  heaven  or  among  men  to  make  a  living 
except  to  still  and  make  bounce.  He  reverently 
believed  that  he  should  be  allowed  to  make  free 
whiskey,  and  regarded  the  acts  of  the  government 
as  a  species  of  "taxation  without  representation." 
Like  the  bold  barons  that  came  from  Runnymede, 
and  at  the  point  of  the  sword,  forced  the  haugh- 
ty King  John  who  bore  the  scepter  of  power  and 
woi-e  the  purple  of  authority,  to  grant  the  charter 
of  human  rights,  he  has  alone  tried  to  resist  the 
government,  in  the  zeal  worthy  of  a  better  cause. 
In  the  light  of  successful  achievement,  we  can 
honor  our  forefathers  for  resisting  a  tax  on  tea 
and  glass,  which  was  levied  to  meet  expenses  of  a 
war  for  our  interest,  but  when  it  comes  to  Red- 
mond, Amos  Owens  and  others  of  that  ilk  raising 
the  flag  of  revolt— why  that  is  altogether  a  differ- 
ent matter. 

So  A  History  OF  Amos  Owen's'  hml 

While  whiskey  is  evidently  a  curse,  is  it  not 
as  blighting  in  its  effects  on  society,  if  made  by  k 
trust  of  steam  distilleries  and  the  tax  evaded  as 
for  Amos  Owens  to  make  a  few  gallons  by  hand 
and  decline  to  pay  the  revenue?  Such 'is  the  rea- 
soning of  this  man  of  such  a  wonderful  experience 
and  such  is  the  fair  verdict,  in  practice  justice  or 


This  work  was  written  by  one  who  never  saw  a 
moonshine  distillery,  and  who  deplores  the  moon- 
shiner's persistence  in  their  precarious  calling. 

The  important  datas-  were  given  by  Amos 
Owens,  by  Dr.  Thomas  Carson  of  Bostic,  J.  C.  El- 
liott of  Polkville  and  other  men  of  probity  and 
character.  At  the  request  of  Amos  Owens,  him- 
self, the  work  was  written  and  is  hereby  offered 
to  the  public.  It  would  have  been  just  as  easy  to 
picture  him  as  the  leader  of  a  ferocious  banditti 
who  revelled  in -scenes  of  blood.  It  would  have 
been  just  as  easy  to  say  that  as  a  land-pirate  he 
kidnapped  beautiful  maidens,  and  extorted  heavy 
ransoms  for  their  deliverance.  The  flights  of 
fancy  might  also  have  conjured  a  spider-legged 
dude  of  twenty-three  summers,  who,  with  a  signal 
service  tin  shield  under  his  lapeL  a  dark  lantern 
in  one  hand  a  cast  barrelled  swamp  angel  in  the 
other,  rushed  on  Amos  Owens  and  one  hundred 
beetle-browed  confederates,  and  bellowed  at  them 
to  surrender  in  the  name  of  the  State.  The  same 
process  could  have  evolved  a  beautiful  maiden  of 
"nineteen, "  wild-eyed,  haggard  and  dishevelled, 
who  rushed  before  the  foot-lights  and  shrieked: 
"Oh,  Sirs,  spare  him  fori  love  him."  Candor 
compels  the  statement  that  nothing  so  tragical 
ever  occurred  in  the  experience  of  this  bold  block- 
ader.  He  is  blood-guiltless  as  far  as  officers  are 
concerned,  but  as  a  sharp  shooter  in  the  ranks  of 

A  HisTOEY  OF  Amos  Owens'  Life.'  51 

the  Confederacy,  he  may  have    slain  some  of  the 
opposing  foemen. 


In  all  well-regulated  novels  the  hero  has  to 
steal  his  bride,  and  is  pursued  by  her  irate  father 
and  about  five  hundred  horsemen. 

They  camp  three  days  on  the  trail  of  the  fugi- 
tives, the  old  man  and  his  retinue  swearing  they 
are  going  to  bathe  their  hands  in  gore. 

On  the  fourth  day  they  overhaul  the  fleeing 
pair,  who  are  both  mounted  on  the  same  "richly 
caparisaned  steed,"  and  the  hunted  Lochinar 
turns  at  bay.  After  a  fierce  struggle,  in  which 
about  seventy-five  of  the  attacking  party  bites  the 
dust,  the  facts  develop  that  the  couple  were  mar- 
ried not  two  hours  since  by  a  wandering  justice 
of  the  peace,  and  the  marriage  certificate  is  placed 
in  evidence.  By  strawberry  marks  and  infantile 
attire,  the  bride-groom  proves  his  lineage  on  one 
side  from  a  sored-eye  wandering  minstrel  of  an 
Italian  count,  and  on  the  other  from  a  pig-sticker 
of  Chicago. 

These  credentials  are  satisfactory,  and  the  old 
ma  11  knt)ws  his  son-in-law  is  no  plebian,  but  a  high 
roller.  They  go  back  to  his  palace  and  for  six 
weeks  there  is  a  round  of  merry-making  and  war 


Amos  Owens  was  married  once  and  but  once,  to 
Miss  May  Sweezy.  When  his  time  came  to  marry 
he  got  on  his  horse,  "Old  Hickory"  and  rode  over 
to  old  man  Sweezy 's.  The  old  man  was  worming 
and  suckering  tobacco,  and  on  seeing  Amos,  got 
off  the  original  observation.  '  'Light  and  look  at 
yer  saddle-"  "I  hain't  got  time,"  said  Amos, 
"wharisMary  Ann?"  "She  has  gone  to  peel 
some    walnuts    to  dye  some    cloth,    what's    up?" 

52  A  History  op  Amos  Owens'  Life. 

'  'Oh,  nothing,  particular, "  said  Amos,  we  thought 
we'd  marry  this  evening."  "Marry!  the  devil!" 
Quoth  the  old  man,  pretending  as  is  usual  under 
such  conditions,  to  be  greatly  surprised.  "No  I 
just  wanted  his  daughter, "  quoth  the  irrepressible 
Amos,  '  'arid  had  no  idea  of  marrying  the  whole 
family. " 

The  old  man  grinned,  humped  himself  over  a 
tobacco  plant,  and  Amos  hunted  up  the  future 
partner  of  his  joys  and  sorrows.  She  was  found, 
bare-headed  and  bare-footed,  coming  with  a  bas- 
ket of  walnut  hulls.  This  she  delivered,  and 
making  no  other  changes  in  her  toilet  except  to 
put  on  her  home  made  shoes  and  '  'wagon  cover" 
bonnet,  she  gayly  mounted  on  old  Hickory  behind 
Amos.  They  hunted  up  a  justice  of  the  peace  and 
stated  their  business.  He  soon  pronounced  the 
ceremony,  and  was  then  and  there  tendered  a 
coon-skin  and  a  quart  bottle  of  brandy.  He 
threw  the  coon-skin  on  the  floor  and  then  and 
there  took  an  observation  of  the  heavens  over  the 
end  of  that  bottle.  Amos  brought  her  to  his 
three  story  house,  which  was  not  three  stories  high 
but  three  stories  long,  and  she  that  evening  milk- 
ed the  cow  and  set  a  hen,  while  Amos  made  an  ox- 
yoke  and  repaired  his  wagon  harness.  That  is  all 
there  is  in  the  way  of  romance  about  his  marriage, 
and  it  is  to  be  observed  that  he  has  been  kind  to 
his  family  and  through  all  his  privations  and  vic- 
issitudes, she  has  been  a  help-meet  true  as  steal. 

Sketches  and  cuts  of  this  remarkable  man  have 
appeared  from  time  to  time  in  Police  Gazette, 
Chicago  Elade,  Pennsylvania  Grit,  Charlotte  Ob- 
server, Cleveland  Star,  Morganton  Herald,  Shel- 
by Aurora  and  other  periodicals  and  publications, 
and  as  the  author  first  "dug  him  up,"  so  to  speak, 
he  now  offers  to  the  public  the  inclosed  matter  in 
book  form.  As  the  hero  has  kept  no  diary,  many 
interesting  facts  are  omitted.     The  work  is  closed, 

■  A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life.  53 

in  the  hope  that  the  reader  will  be  at  least   enter- 



In  connection  with  the  history  of  this  notorious 
blockader,  notice  will  be  taken  of  another  cele- 
brated character,  likewise  a  mountaineer.  He  is 
known  to  profane  history  as  Jerry  Bowlin,  and  is 
the  greatest  exponent,  living  or  dead,  of  '  'squatter 
soverignty. "  Like  Amos  Owens  he  is  unlettered, 
and  like  him  in  other  respects,  he  is  well  nigh  re- 
doubtable. His  age  is  about  seventy-five  years, 
and  in  person  he  is  strong,  rugged,  and  of  medium 
height.  His  hair  is  dark  his  eyes  are  gray,  while 
his  firmly  compressed  mouth  and  resolute  chin, 
indicate  great  determination. 

On  the  corner  of  the  counties  of  Rutherford, 
Burke  and  McDowell,  he  staked  a  claim,  so  long 
since  that  the  memory  of  man  runneth  not  back  to 
the  contrary.  He  married  a  wife  at  an  early  age, 
and,  in  a  pine  pole  '  'sway-backed"  cabin,  under- 
took to  rear  a  family.  Eor  their  meagre  subsist- 
ence they  planted  a  patch  of  corn,  raised  a  small 
garden  every  year,  hunted  squirrels,  pulled  tan- 
back,  and  hunted  herbs  of  a  commercial  value. 

At  length  .'  'pay  dirt"  was  found  in  the  vicinity, 
and  the  syndicate  known  as  the  Golden  Valley 
Mining  Company  was  organized  and  began  opera- 
tion. The  land  was  what  is  called  speculation 
land,  and  they  bought  up  a  large  boundary.  In 
this  iDOundary,  was  the  modest  mansion  of  Jerry 
Bowlin,  with  the  small  clearing  he  had  opened. 
Here  was  a  clash  of  interests,  and  the  haughty  re- 
presentative of  the  corporation  told  Jerry  to  ab- 
squatulate. But  Jerry  took  another  hitch  at  his 
belt,  tightened  his  coon-skin  cap  on  his  head,  and 
told    them  he    was   there  for  the  season.     Scare- 

54  A  History  of  Amos  Oweists'  Life. 

liead  notices  with  heavy  penalties  were  posted  and 
read  in  his  hearing,  but  Jerry  took  a  fresh  nip  of 
long  green,  and  pursued  the  even  terror  of  his  way. 
The  writ  of  ejectment  was  served  by  the  sheriff, 
but  Jerry  observed  that  he  had  always  noticed 
that  lightning  in  the  north  was  a  mighty  good 
sign  of  rain.  The  sheriff  came  with  the  regula- 
tion posse  of  sixteen  stalwart  men,  but  found 
nothing  to  throw  out  of  the  house  but  a  maul  and 
wedge.  Not  a  bed,  cooking  utensil,  or  article  of 
apparel  was  in  sight,  Jerry  again  remarked  that 
lightning  in  the  north  was  a  '  'shore"  sign  of  rain, 
getting  out  his  "twist"  meantime,  and  taking  a 
very  consoling  nip  of  long  green.  That  night 
there  was  a  sound  of  revelry  in  his  hails,  and  the 
flickering  light  of  pine  knots  shone  over  fair  wo- 
men and  brave  men,  while  beds  stood  in  their  ac- 
customed places,  raiment  for  male  and  female 
dangled  from  wooden  pins  in  the  wall,  while  the 
savory  smell  of  flrying  pork  rose  from  a  "spider," 
and  corn  bread  "ripened"  in  the  skillet.  The 
next  morning  he  met  a  representative  of  the  syn- 
dicate, that  informed  him  with  some  asperity  that 
he  had  to  vambose  the  ranch — that  money  was  no 
object.  That  they  had  money  to  burn,  and  would 
dislodge  him  if  it  cost  one  hundred  thousand  dol- 
lars. He  meditated  for  five  minutes,  and  remark- 
ed that  he  had  been  noticing  the  weather  nearly 
seventy  years,  and  never  saw  it  fail  to  rain  when 
it  lightened  in  the  north.  The  dignitary  of  a 
syndicate  said  when  their  company  tried  to 
"raise"  a  man  from  their  territory  they  "raised" 
him  whether  it  lightened  at  all  or  not;  and  they 
each  went  his  way.  The  next  morning  the  Sher- 
iff of  Rutherford  county  again  reported  with  his 
regulation  posse  of  sixteen  brawny  men,  at  the 
domicle  of  Jerry.  The  latter  came  out,  bowed 
gracefuly,  and  remarked:  "Gentlemen,  I  may 
have  never  told  you  before,  but  I  have  taken  per- 

Nortfi  Carolina  Sfafe  Library 

A  History  of  Amos  Owens'  Life.  55 

tickler  notice  tliat  when  it  lightens  in  the  north — 
The  Sheriff  here  stuck  a  gun  in  his  face,  and 
said:  You  old  whelp,  where  are  your  goods?  Yes- 
terday you  had  nothing  to  throw  out  but  a  maul 
and  wedge,  and  last  night  your  house  was  full 
up,  of  beds,  clothing,  and  cooking  utensils,  and 
you  were  having  a  shin-dig.  Now  I'am  going  to 
pull  down  '  'your  durned  old  house. "  The  house 
was  pulled  down,  and  not  a  woman,  child,  article 
of  clothing  or  cooking  utensil  was  visible.  The 
Sheriff  left,  and  the  syndicate  rejoiced.  But  the 
next  night  the  sound  of  revelry  was  again  heard, 
and  some  members  of  the  syndicate  went  down  to 
reconnoiter.  They  found  the  house  up  and  in  tact 
but  still  sway-backed,  the  beds  and  clothing 
in  their  places.  Pork  and  Squirrel  frying,  and 
Jerry  leading  a  break-down.  They  slunk  back  to 
their  places,  feeling  that  syndicates  sometimes 
met  their  match.  On  the  next  morning  Jerry 
passed  the  mining  shaft  with  his  long  rifle  on  his 
shoulder,  and  remarked:  "If  you  see  the  Sheriff, 
I  wish  you'd  tell  him  I  said  it  is  a  good  sign  of 
rain  to  see  it  lighten  in  the  north." 

M.  L.  WHITE. 

POLKVILLE,    ]Sr.    C. 

— .-«5(}Vil.i-_ 

BIO     B  097W 

White,  M.  L. 

A  history  of  the  life  of  Amos  Owens,  the 

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A  history  of  the  life  of  Amos  Owens,  the 
noted  blockader,  of  Cherry  Mountain, 
N.  C.